By the time this issue hits the stands, we will know if the New York Knicks matched the Houston Rockets $25 million qualifying offer to Jeremy Lin. This has been the hottest debate over the past week. Now the answer that most New York basketball fans want to know rests in the hands of the Knicks hierarchy.
Lin was undrafted out of Harvard and was cut by the Golden State Warriors and the Rockets. He was picked by the Knicks but was on the verge of being cut by them before his fortunes started to change.
It started one cold February night against the Boston Celtics. Lin was inserted into the game and gave then head coach Mike D’Antoni a solid effort. Then he followed it up with an eyebrow-raising effort against the New Jersey Nets. From there on, LinSanity was on.
He not only became a local sensation but a worldwide phenomenon as well. It lasted only 25 games before Lin went down with a knee injury, but during that span, just about everybody walking the face of the Earth knew about Lin.
MSG’s stock soared during LinSanity. The Knicks and their merchandise distributors could not keep his jerseys on the shelves. Some people even consider him the sole reason why MSG and Time Warner settled their heated contract dispute last winter. He graced the cover of most publications, including Time magazine.
So why, after all of this fan fair would the Knicks let him walk for a mere $25 million when the corporation just sits back and prints money at the corner of 33rd Street and 7th Avenue? It is not about the money. It has been reported that the Knicks were not that happy about Lin not coming to play in the opening round of this year’s playoffs. When you look at Dwyane Wade hobbling on one knee through the playoffs, to see Lin sitting on the bench in his custom tailored suits during the Miami series did not sit well with the Knicks’ brass.
As far as the money is concerned, the first two years of the contract are reasonable at $5 million per. The third year is the issue. It calls for Lin to be paid roughly $15 million. When you consider that the Knicks will be over the cap at that time and the new Collective Bargaining Agreement calls for the luxury tax of $2 dollars for every dollar that you are over the salary cap, that $15 million now becomes a $30 million hit. After watching Knicks owner James Dolan shell out contracts on Eddy Curry and Luc Longley, one would think the Lin contract is a low risk proposition.
That is why I believe that Lin not participating in this year’s postseason rubbed the Knicks the wrong way and that is why they are leaning on not matching the offer. If you are going to commit to someone to the tune of $25 million, he’d better play through some pain, especially when he admits that he was 85% at the start of the playoffs. Do you think that Wade was 85% during that Indiana series?
That is why they went out and brought Raymond Felton back on the heels of signing Jason Kidd. Lin and Felton are about the same player at this point of their respective careers. Lin has perhaps the bigger upside while Felton comes at a much cheaper price. So for the next two years, it may be a wash.
This is a tough situation for the Knicks. Lin can become an above-average to great point guard, or he can be a flash in the pan. We only have 25 games to go by and half of those games either Carmelo Anthony or Amar’e Stoudemire were not in the line up. That is a small sample size to base a $25 million commitment on.
When it comes to money, I do not think that is the issue. Not playing in the playoffs could be. By the time this issue hits the newsstand we will know what direction the Knicks went. That direction may determine how the organization will fare in the next three to five years. Let’s hope they made the right one. Only time will tell.