By HOWARD BECK
ORLANDO, Fla. — The profound changes in Jeremy Lin’s life can now be measured in microphones and cameras and the square footage needed to accommodate the growing legion of scribes hanging on his every word.
On Friday evening, the herd pushed past 100, all crammed into a long, narrow room set aside for press conferences at All-Star weekend. No games had been played yet. It would be two hours before Lin, the Knicks’ 23-year-old point guard, joined other rookies and second-year players in the Rising Stars Challenge. His peers spoke earlier in the day, after practice. But the demand for Lin was so great that the N.B.A. scheduled a separate news conference.
Surreal? Yes, Lin admitted without hesitation, it is.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Just any press conference of my own in general, let alone All-Star weekend.”
For the next 16 minutes, Lin addressed every curiosity, from his choice of jersey number to his trail-blazing role as the N.B.A.’s only current Asian-American. On the latter topic, Lin spoke as extensively and candidly as he has about the possibility that his appearance caused scouts to overlook him at every step of his career.
His former coach at Harvard, Tommy Amaker, has often made the point.
“I think it has something to do with it,” said Lin, whose parents are from Taiwan. “I don’t know how much. But I think just being Asian-American, obviously when you look at me, I’m going to have to prove myself more so, again and again and again. And some people may not believe it.”
Lin seemed to be hinting at the doubts that have accompanied his rapid rise to fame this month, as he transformed from anonymous 15th man to global sensation. Despite a series of 20-point games and high assist totals, Lin had to keep convincing a skeptical public that his talent is real and his performance sustainable.
He also addressed the more subtle slights, such as the frequent description of him as “deceptively athletic” or “deceptively quick.”
“I’m not sure what’s deceptive,” Lin said. “But it could be the fact I’m Asian-American. But I think that’s fine. It’s something that I embrace, and it gives me a chip on my shoulder. But I’m very proud to be Asian-American, and I love it.”
Before Lin was selected for the rising stars game — an 11th-hour decision made by the commissioner’s office, to capitalize on Lin’s sudden popularity — he had planned a quiet weekend on a beach somewhere. “But I’m glad I’m here,” he said.
Lin addressed several other topics:
¶ His jersey number, 17, was chosen for religious purposes — seven being a number repeated throughout the Bible.
“I chose 17 because the 1 was kind of to represent me, and the 7 was to represent God,” Lin said.
¶ He confirmed a story, told by the Miami Heat’s Udonis Haslem, about a telling moment on Jan. 27, when the Knicks were playing the Heat and Lin’s job security was tenuous. During the pregame chapel that night, the pastor asked players if there was anything they wanted to pray for.
According to Haslem, who shared the story with the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Lin asked, “Can you pray I don’t get cut?”
The date for teams to cut players with unguaranteed contracts was two weeks away at the time.
“I knew Feb. 10 was right around the corner,” Lin said Friday, “so that was what was on my heart, just that I would be able to continue to stay on the roster and be with the team the rest of the year.”
¶ Had the Knicks rookie Iman Shumpert competed in the slam-dunk contest, Lin would have played a role — by throwing a lob pass off a couch. The gimmick played off a key part of Lin’s N.B.A. biography. He spent most of this season sleeping on couches, either at his brother’s apartment on the Lower East Side or at Landry Fields’s apartment in Westchester County.
“Landry was going to roll a couch out with a cover over it,” Lin said. “I was going to be sleeping underneath it, and then we were going to pull the cover. I was going to throw Iman an alley-oop from the couch, and he was going to jump over both me and the couch, windmill it and then sit down and have Landry hand him a Sprite.”
Shumpert had to pull out of the contest because of a nagging knee injury, putting the idea on hold.
¶ With regard to the Knicks, Lin said the teammates who have given him the most support are Fields (his closest friend on the team), Carmelo Anthony, Jared Jeffries and Tyson Chandler.
The mention of Anthony was noteworthy, because of the nagging questions about whether Anthony can mesh with Lin.
“I think a lot of people have asked how is he fitting it, what’s his attitude,” Lin said of Anthony, “but he’s definitely taken me under his wing, and he talks to me pretty much every single timeout and gives me a lot of advice. He told me to keep being aggressive and keep doing what I’m doing, and that we would learn to play off of each other.”
Lin also spoke passionately about Coach Mike D’Antoni’s acumen and his offensive system, which have allowed Lin to flourish. His support could be critical this summer, when Madison Square Garden officials decide whether to offer D’Antoni a new contract, or to let him go.
“I’m thankful that I play for Coach D’Antoni,” he said, “because he really is an offensive genius, the way he designed his system.”
Lin has been featured on two straight Sports Illustrated covers and is on the cover of the current issue of Time magazine’s Asia edition. He has embraced the spotlight, but will not mind seeing it dim a little.
“I’m definitely surprised that people are still talking about Linsanity, or whatever,” Lin said. “I think, hopefully, as the season progresses, it will go from that to New York Knicks. And, hopefully, the Knicks can win basketball games, we can make a good push after the All-Star break and people will start talking about the Knicks and not necessarily me.”