Before the Nets’ home opener with the Orlando Magic Friday night, which they won in a nail-biting finish, 126-121, head coach Kenny Atkinson told reporters that he spent part of the morning with Lin after his surgery.
“We’ve known each other for a long time,” Atkinson said. “That’s what makes this harder.”
Atkinson said Lin’s injury was a shock to the team.
“I think it’ll be good therapy for us to go out there and battle with Orlando tonight,” he said.
Lin has responded with optimism on social media, sharing a photo Friday morning of himself in a hospital gown and thanking fans for their support.
Nets fans who spoke with NBC News at Barclays Center were stunned and saddened by the latest setback to befall the Taiwanese-American basketball star, who made his NBA debut seven years ago.
Some recalled anxiously awaiting his return to the Big Apple last year after signing a reported three-year $36 million deal with the Nets. Others anticipated a second-coming of Linsanity, the term coined for Lin’s meteoric rise in the NBA beginning with the New York Knicks in 2012.
“It’s been a rough two years for him and for his fans,” Christopher Tao, 31, said. “But I think [he] means something to the Asian-American community, and maybe more specifically the Chinese-American community.”
Zhihai Hu, who has been in the United States visiting from China for a month, said he felt a sense of regret that Lin was hurt and couldn’t get to see him play in Friday night’s game.
“As a person of Asian descent, you support him,” he said, speaking in Mandarin.
Even before the 2017-2018 season started, Lin made a splash off the court with his decision to get dreadlocks, which he reflected on in an essay for The Players’ Tribune on Oct. 3.
But critics, including former Net Kenyon Martin, accused Lin of wanting to be black. Lin responded by calling on both sides, Asian and African Americans, to come together.
Fayth Edillor, a lifelong Nets fan, said Lin handled the criticism with a lot of grace and humility.
“Even though it wasn’t entirely positive feedback, I think it was still important and really helpful because I think there are a lot of folks who are on the same page as Kenyon,” Edillor, 27, said. “It really wasn’t meant to be a divide and more so to bring everyone more united.”
With Lin out for the rest of the season, questions remain about how his absence will impact the Nets.
Edillor said she doesn’t see the dynamic of the team shifting without Lin on the court. “I think he’ll still be a leader from the sidelines, just as he was last year,” she said.
Chua also expressed optimism.
“You have to hope that he’s going to come back,” he said. “I guess you would assume there are more in the future coming, hopefully, other than just Jeremy Lin.”
Speaking after the game, Nets forward Trevor Booker told reporters in the locker room that Lin’s loss is tough for the team.
“But we still have to go out there and play,” he said.
"It was a big win for us, and I know he’s watching," Booker added.