HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Outside of maybe Jeremy Lin‘s immediate family and the most die-hard of New York Knicks fans, you couldn’t find anyone that one loved Linsanity more than we did.
It’s not often in this day and age that we get handed pre-packaged story like the one Lin starred in during his 25-game Broadway debut last season, complete with the global pandemonium it sparked above and beyond the walls of just our relentless basketball culture.
The Knicks’ point guard was GREAT for business and challenged all of our beliefs about what makes a player and whether or not a star can really be born if we didn’t see him coming.
We’ll know in another day whether Lin is coming back to New York or going to Houston, to a Rockets team that gambled and lost the first time they had Lin in their grasp but don’t plan on doing it twice (now that Lin has signed that loaded, three-year, $25 million offer sheet).
The Knicks have until that 11:59 p.m. deadline Tuesday to make a decision about Lin, who was going to cash in this summer one way or another. However “ridiculous” Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith or anyone else thinks the offer is, there is no such thing in the NBA as a “bad contract.” That’s because said contract can always be moved before you get to the rotten part (ask the Hawks, now that they’ve been freed from remaining $90 million owed now Brooklyn Nets All-Star Joe Johnson).
That’s why the Knicks need to do the right thing by Lin and free him from the outlandish expectations he’d never be able to live up to in New York and let him walk. Let someone else worry about that massive, $14.8 million he’ll be owed in his third season.
Let the Rockets worry about the inevitable dissension in the locker room, as Smith put it, that is bound to bubble up during Lin’s third season wherever he is:
“Without a doubt,” he said. “I think some guys take it personal, because they’ve been doing it longer and haven’t received any reward for it yet. I think it’s a tough subject to touch on for a lot of guys.”
Let the Rockets roll the dice on Lin being the player that dazzled the world when he was at his best, and not the guy who looked out of his element when the Miami Heat exposed him in a 102-88 rout of the Knicks Feb. 23 (the night Lin shot 1 for 11 from the field, finished with eight points, three assists — nowhere near the 23.9 points and 9.2 assists he had been averaging over his first 11 games in the Knicks’ rotation).
The fact is, Lin is probably ready to perform at a level somewhere in the middle of those extremes. And we can’t be sure that he’s ready to do it on a consistent basis since there is such a small sample to work with, in terms of Lin as a starting point guard.
(It should be noted, the prospect of Lin going elsewhere didn’t become even a remote possibility until Steve Nash spurned the Knicks’ overtures and joined the Los Angeles Lakers, snuffing out Knicks coach Mike Woodson‘s dream pairing of Nash mentoring Lin, on and off the court.)
If the Rockets are willing to assume all of that risk, the Knicks would be crazy to do the same since they’ve already had Lin in their program and think they know what he is now and could become — if they were 100 percent sold on Lin as their franchise guy they wouldn’t have chased other point guards at the start of free agency.
Everyone has their sources telling them which way the Knicks are leaning, it’s up to you to decipher the fact from fiction and come up with your own best guess. (Rockets GM Daryl Morey and his Knicks counterpart Glen Grunwald have wisely declined to make any public comments on the matter until it is resolved.)
Let’s be clear about one thing, though. The Knicks should take every single second they have to ponder their decision. Because there is going to be some serious fallout whichever way they go.
If Lin suits up for the Rockets and kicks off the Linsanity Remix, Knicks fans will be howling about yet another blown opportunity. But if they keep him and he’s in a logjam with Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd and can’t distinguish himself in that crowd, the fall from grace will as brutal as his rise was brilliant (not to mention the potential $43 million super tax bill they’ll be on the hook for).