NEWARK — Jeremy Lin made his first road trip since rejoining the Nets on a full-time basis after his rehabilitation from a ruptured patella tendon, visiting the organization’s old home on Saturday night at the Prudential Center.
It wasn’t a sporting event that drew him but rather a concert called KCON that featured a collection of K-pop groups, a genre of South Korean pop music that has captured his interest even though he is of Taiwanese heritage.
Lin is friends with Chinese-American rapper MC Jin, who introduced him to a modern style of music that is beginning to cross cultural borders. He also knows Jay Park, a Korean-American K-pop star who is affiliated with Roc Nation, the same agency that represents Lin.
“I think there’s a natural connection,” Lin said before the concert, where he expected to meet the members of Super Junior and Red Velvet, two groups scheduled to perform. “There’s a lot of Chinese artists who may go and become K-pop stars.
“It’s not just totally Korean. It’s kind of crossed over into mainstream China and mainstream U.S. It’s something that has been on my radar for a little bit, but this is my first time really getting into it and experiencing it live.”
Lin explained his newfound interest as an extension of his love of music and his numerous friendships with musicians he identifies with because they understand what it’s like to be in the spotlight and have a public voice.
“Maybe barriers are broken through music,” Lin said. “There are a lot of K-pop celebrities who are pursuing their dreams, but they’re doing it in ways that are maybe defying a lot of previous stereotypes. Even the industry itself is something I really respect because it’s giving more light to Asians and to highlight the culture of Asians.”
Obviously, Lin has created a global brand for himself as a basketball player, but he is a particular source of inspiration for Asians and has tried to use that platform in a positive way.
“Through basketball, if I play in the NBA, that does more to break down stereotypes and it does more to unify many times than anything I can say,” Lin said. “You entertain, you perform, you use the gifts and the talent you’ve been given as a way to bring people together. That’s something that we need today, more solidarity, more unity.”
Injuries have threatened Lin’s career, limiting him to 37 games the past two seasons. But after a rigorous rehab at a facility near Vancouver, he’s back training with the Nets for the final season of his three-year, $36-million deal.
“This is definitely a big year in many ways,” Lin said. “Obviously, there’s a lot at stake. I don’t think much of the pressure. I know that, if I could just be healthy, I can go out and play and enjoy the game. That’s going to mean so much to me . . . I’ve done everything I can to give myself the best chance to succeed.”
There has been speculation that Lin’s expiring contract might make him a valuable trade chip, but even a team as young as the Nets needs veteran leadership. He hasn’t abdicated that role and said he maintained contact with players and coaches while rehabbing.
“I know what was asked of me behind closed doors, and I know why they want me here in Brooklyn and why they want me training around these guys,” Lin said. “I don’t feel like there’s anything I need to prove in terms of having a voice. But yeah, I have to lead by example. I’ll be able to do more of that now that I’m here in the building and not in Vancouver. I don’t feel I have to re-establish anything.”