The clock turned from 11:59 PM to 12:00 AM. Nighttime became daytime. Tuesday became Wednesday. Jeremy Lin? He had officially been a Houston Rocket for one minute. After weeks of it being reported that the Knicks would match any contract offered to Lin up to a billion dollars (which is a cute businessy way to say, they would match any contract offered to him, a three-year contract worth twenty-five million dollars was where the Knicks ultimately drew the line.
The assumption everyone is currently working under is that the Knicks organization did not want to take on the hefty luxury tax that they would incur by signing Lin. His deal from the Rockets was structured where, after making five million in each of his first two years, Lin would stand to make fifteen million in the final year of his contract. This final year would put the Knicks well over the league’s salary cap, and into the luxury tax, basically meaning they would have to pay even more money. And, as anyone who knows anything about Knicks ownership knows, James Dolan likes his money (unless, of course, he’s overpaying for Jerome James or Eddy Curry.)
Lin’s replacement seems to be Raymond Felton. It is really uncertain though, how of an upgrade, if any, Felton is over Lin. Felton is coming off his worst season, since his rookie year, playing point guard for a Blazers team that, at times, looked like the worst team in the league. The only real argument for Felton over Lin, contracts aside, is that Felton turned the ball over less (2.8 per game vs. 3.6.) Granted, Felton played mostly great in his initial stint with the Knicks, but that team was running Mike D’antoni’s fast-paced offense, with Amar’e Stoudemire as the featured player. Now, Mike Woodson, who favors a half-court/isolation style, is the coach, and Amar’e is playing second fiddle to Carmelo Anthony. For the Knicks (and their fans’) sake, let’s hope and pray that Raymond Felton can recapture some of the magic he and Amar’e had, and help make this team the contender it should be.
But, forgetting all Felton-related speculation, Jeremy Lin remains gone. The Knicks had been an awful team for a decade. They finally played half a season of exciting basketball with Amar’e and friends, before acquiring Carmelo, and becoming, overall, stagnant and a chore to watch. When Lin was given his opportunity to shine, he more than took it and ran with it. Linsanity was the greatest thing to happen to the Knicks in the past ten (or so) years. I’ve personally never seen the team more exciting, seen Knicks fans rally more behind one player, nor felt Madison Square Garden be more alive. (Source: I was at a game where someone shouted out, “JEREMY LIN FOR PRESIDENT!” during the National Anthem. It was awesome.) And now, to let all that passion and excitement, not to mention jersey sales, marketable/silly puns, and most importantly WINNING BASKETBALL(!), walk away for essentially nothing, seems just plain foolish.
Really, the only way for the Knicks to wind up on the good end of this move, is if this Knicks team wins a championship, and Lin’s play doesn’t get much better than where it is presently at. If the Knicks win one, and Lin becomes a superstar in Houston, it’s going to be, “yeah, but imagine how many we could have won with Lin.” If the Knicks don’t win it all, and Lin becomes a superstar in Houston, it’s going to be, “*expletive expletive expletive* should have held on to Lin.” And, if both sides amount to nothing, there will probably be a collective “meh.”
Honestly, I wish Jeremy Lin the very best with the Rockets. I’ll cheer him when he comes back to Madison Square Garden, and won’t get too mad when he inevitably torches the Knicks for 30 points, 15 assists, and 5 rebounds. Though, even if he can recapture some form of Linsanity down in Houston, it’s unlikely it will be able to measure up to the level it attained the first time around, in New York (no offense to Houston; I’ve never been, but I’m sure it’s, with zero irony here, a lovely city.) Linsanity is dead. Long live Linsanity.