July 18, 2012
The New York Knicks just let Jeremy Lin walk. Some say it was because of the ridiculous offer sheet the Houston Rockets signed Lin to. Others suggest that New York ownership felt spurned by Lin signing to a deal that just wasn’t logical for the organization to match.
Even teammate Carmelo Anthony referred to Lin’s contract as “ridiculous”, despite saying he still wanted Lin to remain in New York. Lin himself preferred New York, but ultimately, he signed with the Rockets because he wanted “to go to a team that had plans for me and wanted me”.
Clearly, the Rockets have plans for Lin that the Knicks didn’t.
Prior to the decision on Lin, the Knicks had already brought on Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd, with many expecting that Lin would be no better than the third point guard to start the 2012-13 season. Obviously if that were the case, the Knicks really couldn’t make sense of bringing Lin back at $25.1 million over three years.
But maybe the Knicks are missing the big picture. Lin is a developing player. He’s a marketing gold mine. In not even half of a season, he got the world’s attention. Yes, he’s asian, and yes, that matters. Just look at what Yao Ming did for the Houston Rockets. Look at what Yi Jianlian could have done for the Milwaukee Bucks if he had panned out. Not just imagine what Lin will do in Houston – a franchise that knows a thing or two about a quality asian player.
This isn’t just about race and marketability, though. Obviously it plays into it, and you can’t ignore that aspect. Lin, in this case anyways, is getting played to both be the starting point guard for the Rockets, and also get fans in the seats. If he can progress as a player and get fans to come watch the team at the same time, the $25 million dollar investment over three years is well worth it.
What I’m struggling to figure out, however, is how the Knicks couldn’t see the big picture. I don’t get how they could sign Jason Kidd and bring in Raymond Felton, and not at all be concerned about keeping Jeremy Lin.
I get the addition of Kidd. Bring in a veteran presence who know the ropes, can spell Lin and can teach him how to really play the game. But Felton? It just doesn’t make sense. Maybe the Knicks were protecting themselves. Maybe, like many basketball analysts, they didn’t completely buy into Lin’s ability to be more than just an OK starting NBA point guard. Or maybe, just maybe, they didn’t think his mid-season roll would last.
Whatever the case may be, I think the Knicks got it wrong. If they hadn’t protected themselves with both Felton and Lin, the steep price to keep Lin would have been easier to swallow. If they had held onto Lin, they would have kept a big name in one of the biggest markets in the league, and suddenly New York would still be king in it’s own state, and they wouldn’t have to be looking over their shoulders at the Brooklyn Nets.
But instead of stepping up and making it happen, New York thought too much, leaned on emotion, and played the safe hand.
Ultimately, they may find that they had an ace in their hand all along.