HOUSTON — In the end Jeremy Lin got his billion dollar contract.
After all, isn’t that what coach Mike Woodson said it would take to pry the point guard phenom — and next season’s starter — out of the Knicks’ cold, dead hands?
So Linsanity now wears boots and a Stetson, y’all.
For the Rockets, it’s the continuation of a summertime gamble that looks a lot like walking across a high wire while juggling chain saws.
After re-signing a player he had and cut seven months ago for a whopping $25.1 million, Houston general manager Daryl Morey evidently plans to turn right around and close a quite similar deal with Bulls backup center Omer Asik.
At the same time the Rockets remain doggedly in the middle of the Dwight Howard soap opera, willing to take the unhappy big man off the hands of the Magic, even for a short-term rental, or play a third-party role that could land Howard on the Lakers and Andrew Bynum in Houston. In return Morey is willing to give up a large portion of his current roster and take on a bevy of bad contracts from Orlando.
If you’re the Rockets who’ve been trapped in the netherworld middle of the NBA standings for three straight seasons with no star to build around, it is a half-mad gambler’s plan that makes perfect sense, assuming you’ve got the nerve and access to team owner Leslie Alexander’s wallet.
However, if you’re the Knicks, just drop the ‘L’ and label it insanity. Not that Lin was ever going to chase the ghost of Walt Frazier out of Madison Square Garden, but because they chose a curious time to become, as the old saying goes, pennywise and pound-foolish.
For a team that has won exactly one playoff game since 2001 and already has outrageous money tied up in the contracts of Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, the Knicks’ actions in this instance are reminiscent of the line from the late Lloyd Bridges in the classic 1980 comedy Airplane!:
“I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.”
The timing couldn’t have been worse, according to ESPN NewYork’s Ian O’Connor:
The Knicks told Lin to hit the marketplace, and it turned out to be a mistake as big as the hiring of Larry Brown. Houston wanted Lin, and the same franchise that threw so much money at so many lost causes over the years decided to draw the line at $25.1 million for a potential star.
Lin might not turn out to be a star, but he’d already built a reasonable case suggesting the Knicks should take the gamble. (James) Dolan took a pass. The owner whose one redeeming quality was his willingness to reach deep into his pockets chose to short-arm this one while his new Brooklyn neighbor, Mikhail Prokhorov, was assuming a third of a billion dollars in long-term commitments in his bid to rule New York.
Dolan embraced fiscal restraint at the worst possible time.
Lin would’ve been a bargain making $5 million in Years 1 and 2, and the Knicks could’ve dealt one of the four massive expiring contracts belonging to Lin, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler in the summer of 2014 to dodge the luxury-tax hit.
If the Gilbert Arenas, Rashard Lewis, and Joe Johnson contracts could be moved, the Knicks would’ve found a taker somewhere. And if no team under the salary cap would accommodate them, the Knicks could’ve waived Lin after two seasons and spread out his remaining salary over three years, easing their tax burdens under a “stretch provision” clause spelled out by ESPN’s Larry Coon.
So just like that, the offense is in the hands of Raymond Felton, who was out of shape and shot 40.7 percent from the field last season in Portland.
The Linsanity is over in N.Y., but clearly not the madness.