HONG KONG – Fans mobbed American basketball star Jeremy Lin on Friday as he celebrated his birthday with his family in Hong Kong.
The 24-year-old son of Taiwanese parents told reporters that he was enjoying the city but had been unable to visit all the sights because of a “bit of paparazzi issue”, amid huge popular excitement over his visit.
“It’s a beautiful city. I like it a lot,” he said.
Lin is in the former British colony to launch a basketball charity for poor children and share his Christian faith at a church service that is expected to attract thousands of believers on Sunday.
Organizers said over 11,000 tickets to attend the service at the Asia World Expo had been snapped up, and it will be simultaneously broadcast at 10 churches around Hong Kong.
Lin is expected to talk about how his faith helped him to overcome challenges in life.
Lin shot to stardom last season with the New York Knicks, dazzling fans with his clutch shooting and passing skills.
Last month, he signed a three-year, $25 million contract with the Houston Rockets.
“We are going to be young, we are going to be inexperienced,” he said of his new team.
“We have a chance to build a new team, to build a new culture and to start from the ground.”
Fresh start for Lopez
Robin Lopez always saw himself as a defense-first big man, someone who can grind out low-scoring games.
The 213-cm center suspects that’s why the New Orleans Hornets, with defensive-minded coach Monty Williams at the helm, made a trade with the Phoenix Suns for him late last month.
“With the exception of Phoenix, in college and high school I always played with low-scoring successful teams,” Lopez said on Thursday morning while working out at the Hornets’ training center. “That is something I can definitely get accustomed to here.”
Lopez is currently rehabilitating from an operation earlier this month to repair a torn medial meniscus on the same left knee that has bothered him since early in the 2010-11 season, when he went out for a month after a teammate fell and rolled into him.
His performance has sagged ever since the injury and last season he fell out of a starting role and averaged 5.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in 14 minutes a game. Other previous injuries during his young career have included a bulging disk in his back and a fractured foot.
“In a competitive league like this, (injuries) can kind of make or break a season for you,” Lopez said. “I don’t want to make any excuses, obviously, because there are other contributing factors. I wasn’t what I should have been. I wasn’t up to par, I guess, so that can be rough. So being almost healthy right now, or definitely being on that course, that’s very exciting for me. Right now, I feel great.”
Lopez said that although he is eager to do more basketball-related training on the court with his new teammates, he is trying not to rush back with more than two months still remaining before the regular season opens.
The 24-year-old makes no secret, though, that he views his move to the Big Easy as a fresh start after struggling to live up to expectations as Phoenix’s 2008 first-round draft choice (15th overall).
“I’m excited to be here. We’ve got a young, energetic group,” Lopez said. “The good thing is we’ve got some youth that has a little bit of experience as well.”