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MANILA, Philippines – Former NBA player Jeremy Lin was a man on a mission in his return to Manila on Wednesday, January 3, as he led the New Taipei Kings to an 89-77 rout of the Meralco Bolts in the 2023-2024 East Asia Super League (EASL) at the PhilSports Arena.
Despite being 35 years old, the spitfire guard showed why NBA players are always a cut above the rest regardless of age, dropping 23 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists in just 29 minutes to bury the Meralco home team’s comeback attempt in the second half and lift New Taipei to a 3-0 record.
After the game, however, Lin made sure to reciprocate the love Filipino fans showed him in his brief stay – his first in the Philippines since 2013, when he was still a member of the Houston Rockets squad who played an NBA preseason game against the Indiana Pacers at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“It’s crazy. It’s just crazy,” Lin said in the postgame presser.
“A lot of former teammates, when they talk about the summer or off-season, like, ‘Oh where are we going to do our endorsements? We have to do this and that, where are we going?,’ and the Philippines is a top, top, top destination that everybody wants to be at, that’s for sure.”
Lin surely felt the love even as a visiting player, as he was cheered loudly by Filipino fans whenever he scored or made a big play against the Philippine team Meralco, and was mobbed for autograph and photo opportunities before and after the game.
Beyond the fandom, the former Los Angeles Lakers role player also praised the Filipino ballers’ renowned affinity for hard-nosed, physical play, and even singled out Bolts forward Cliff Hodge for his defensive hustle from buzzer to buzzer.
“They play physical. Cliff Hodge is a great example,” Lin continued. “He plays the [power forward] position at 6-foot-4, but I can see why.”
“He’s very physical, he’s smart, he does his job really, really well, and he makes everything difficult for you. He just plays hard and I think that’s the best type of basketball you want to play.”
Given Meralco and TNT’s poor records so far in the EASL, it is unlikely that Lin and New Taipei will again play a Philippine team for the duration of the league’s home-and-away season.
Surely, however, both Filipino fans and players have made a good enough impression to make Lin’s experience a fond one to look back on down the road. – Rappler.com