HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The reaction to the news that the Knicks passed on an opportunity to keep Jeremy Lin in New York has been as one-sided as it has been swift.
Few people (fans, pundits, casual observers, cab drivers, finance experts, etc.) think it was wise for the Knicks to allow Lin to go to the Houston Rockets because they thought three years and $25.1 million (back-loaded in the third year for the Knicks) was a sum too rich for a guy who has started just 25 games.
That blowback from the public might have something to do with the Knicks’ history of being generous with their funds — for example, Jerome James did collect $30 million from the Knicks for what amounts to a tiny crumb of the excitement Lin produced, on and off the court.
Dive in as the (media) world weighs in on the decision by the Knicks to pass on Lin …
THIS ONE IS ON DOLAN
Howard Beck of The New York Times: The final decision for the Knicks rested with James L. Dolan, the Madison Square Garden chairman, and Dolan was the only one who could reverse it as the final hours ticked away Tuesday. But by midafternoon, a person briefed on the situation said the deliberations had ended.
“It is done,” the person said.
The decision was said to be financial, not emotional. Lin’s contract contains a third-year balloon payment of $14.9 million, which would have cost the Knicks another $35 million or more in luxury-tax penalties. This so-called poison pill was devised by the Rockets to dissuade the Knicks from matching, and it proved effective.
“We were comfortable with the money we were going to give Jeremy, and we hoped they wouldn’t match,” Daryl Morey, the Rockets’ general manager, said in a telephone interview. “But it’s hard to know what was the key to their decision.”
Because the Rockets are well below the luxury-tax threshold, Lin’s contract will cost them only its face value. Also, under the N.B.A.’s arcane rules, the Rockets will be charged an average of the salary, $8.37 million a year, for salary-cap purposes, instead of taking the $14.9 million hit in 2014-15. Thus, the deal is more manageable for the Rockets than it would have been for the Knicks.
IF THE KNICKS ARE WRONG, ARE THE ROCKETS RIGHT?
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: If the Knicks are wrong, does that mean, in turn, that the Rockets are right? In other words, does logic follow that Jeremy Lin will be a $14.9 million basketball player three years from now? Can anyone say that with certainty?
The truth is, no one can; not even the Rockets. What the Rockets did here was the basketball equivalent of naked shortselling or some other devious mechanism of the financial markets that so obviously have failed us over the past four years. The Rockets are Lehman Brothers or Bear Stearns on this particular transaction, and it isn’t so much a question of who wins the modern-day press conference on Twitter but who foots the bill down the road.
Or, to put it in terms that all of us can easily understand, I defer to the great basketball philosopher, Carmelo Anthony, who aptly branded the Rockets’ offer for Lin “ridiculous.” Leave it to Melo to boil down the NBA’s debate of the day into a single word that nails it.
I agree with Melo. To put the Rockets’ decision in terms that are more suited to our current 30-second news cycle: That was a clown offer, bro.
More to the point, here is what we know about Jeremy Lin. He came off the bench in a game on Feb. 4 against the Nets, and singlehandedly was the reason the Knicks won. He had 25 points and seven assists. I will never forget experiencing this delightful basketball moment in the stands with my family. Nor will I forget the angst I felt about attending that game as a spectator. Why, you ask? Because I was afraid that if the Knicks lost, then the coach, Mike D’Antoni, would be fired, and I would have to put down my chicken sandwich and get to work.
But the coach wasn’t fired, and Lin went on a statistical and culturally important rampage the likes of which no one had ever witnessed before. He won his first six starts, putting up numbers that were historically important and unheard of. And other than five minutes, 49 seconds in the first of those starts, Lin did it without Anthony, who injured his groin in the first quarter of the Utah game on Feb. 6.
MOREY’S JOB ON THE LINE WITH THIS GAMBLE?
Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle: Are the Rockets paying too much for Jeremy Lin? Oh yeah.
But as I like to say, it ain’t my money, so I’m all in with Lin. He is one of my favorite players, so I am happy for him. And I’m happy the New York Knicks have decided to let the Rockets have him.
Lin is entertaining. The Rockets haven’t been entertaining since before Ron Artest became Metta World Peace.
Last fall, Lin would have been happy as all get-out to have signed for two seasons with the Rockets for well under a $1 million a year. Now, he is hitting Les Alexander’s bank account for an average of around $8.3 million per season over the next three years. Sweet.
Not so sweet if you’re general manager Daryl Morey. This is a huge gamble.
One problem Morey has is he’s honest. He admitted that if he’d known Lin was that good a player — good enough to take the NBA by storm for one fun month of play last season — he would never have released him from the Rockets.
So Morey is attempting to right a wrong with the pursuit and capture of the flashy point guard. He knows he messed up and is now pushing in Alexander’s chips to make this call.
HOUSTON A BETTER FIT FOR LIN THAN NEW YORK
Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports: Basketball-wise, Houston appears to be a better fit than New York for Lin. He averaged 14.6 points and 6.2 assists in 35 games with the Knicks. Most of that success came under coach Mike D’Antoni, who was fired on March 14. Knicks coach Mike Woodson never showed the same confidence in Lin. The Knicks also acquired veteran point guards Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton this offseason.
The Rockets run a lot of pick-and-roll plays that were key to Lin’s success in New York under D’Antoni. [Kevin] Martin believes that Lin will flourish in coach Kevin McHale’s offense.
“I think he can bring what he did in New York to the Rockets,” Martin said. “He was great in pick-and-rolls and getting his [big men] involved, kind of like what [Steve] Nash did in Phoenix. When you play alongside a shooting guard who doesn’t need to be dribbling to be effective, point guards love playing with big time scorers like that.”
The Rockets and Lakers are the current frontrunners to acquire Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard in a trade. Lin can’t be traded until Jan. 15 after signing the offer sheet. But Martin, who is in the last year of his contract, could be moved. The Rockets have rid themselves of Kyle Lowry, Luis Scola, Samuel Dalembert and Chase Budinger this summer to acquire the salary-cap space and assets for a potential Howard trade.
“I got here 2½ years ago, and now I’m the longest-tenured Rocket there,” Martin said. “We lost some great players over the last month in Kyle and Luis. They were great teammates. Nobody likes to go the rebuilding route, but sometimes it’s needed. And that’s how Daryl Morey feels right now, so you don’t know what the future holds for the Rockets.”
KNICKS WILL SURVIVE WITHOUT LIN
Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News: Once and for all: If the people running the Knicks really thought Lin was a future star of the league — a future star point guard in a point guard league — as they were told constantly over the last week, as the whole thing began to turn into the opera with Knicks fans and the media, then they would have kept him. They did not. Everybody moves on.
And the rest of the country must wonder why the free-agent status of a young man who started 25 games last season was treated in New York like it was the big-city equivalent of LeBron James’ “Decision” a couple of years ago. Everybody wanted LeBron James. The Knicks decided they didn’t want Jeremy Lin.
It doesn’t change what happened, or the way he changed the Knicks’ season, or the way he made the Garden sound and the way he made it feel, starting with that game he played against the Nets the day before the Super Bowl. He felt indispensable at the time. The Knicks decided differently on Tuesday. We told you in Tuesday’s Daily News that the only thing that could keep him here was Dolan changing his mind.
Dolan didn’t. Stood his ground. Lin goes.
“He’s a nice kid and a nice player,” the NBA coach I talked to about Lin said Monday night. “But the reaction to this in New York? Come on. I think they’ll survive if and when the kid leaves.”
The Knicks will survive. If they can survive Isiah Thomas, they can survive a nuclear attack. And Lin will get every opportunity to go to Houston and prove that the Rockets are the big winners here and the Knicks are losers again. For now, the Knicks make the right play by letting Lin walk. You have to know that they were never going to be Jeremy Lin’s Knicks.
KNICKS SAY GOODBEYE TO
Ian O’Connor of ESPNNewYork.com: At least Knicks fans found comfort in that future first-round pick the Rockets sent their way. Or was it Houston’s rights to Royce White? Or the services of Kevin Martin to help fill the void at the two?
Actually, the Knicks didn’t even get an autographed Yao Ming jersey in return. Dolan and GM Glen Grunwald and head coach Mike Woodson dispatched the same relative rookie who dropped 38 on Kobe’s Lakers, the same guy whose 2012 stats put to shame those of many accomplished 23-year-old point guards of the past, Steve Nash included, without getting a player or pick for their trouble.
Just so they could hand the ball to the unworthy likes of Raymond Felton, a decent ex-Knick who was outplayed last season by — you got it — Jeremy Lin.
Felton is likely a bigger creation of the Mike D’Antoni system than his predecessor at the point ever was. He’s four years older than Lin, and as a seven-year veteran he isn’t getting any better and isn’t getting his new team any closer to Miami.
But the Knicks ran off Lin anyway, if only to make the point that nobody — not even the inspiration of the worldwide craze known as Linsanity — crosses Jim Dolan and gets away with it. Just last week, after it was reported Lin had verbally agreed to a Houston guarantee worth nearly $20 million, Woodson announced that the Knicks would “absolutely” match the offer and that Lin would “absolutely” open as his starting quarterback.
Only the Knicks “absolutely” lost their minds after Lin took Woodson’s empty pledges back to the negotiating table, inflated his poison-pill wage in Year 3 from $9.3 million to nearly $15 million, and stuck the Knicks with a luxury-tax bill in 2014-15 that would’ve left Warren Buffett cowering under a table.
KNICKS’ BEST PLAYER ISN’T GOING ANYWHERE
Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post: But here are a few truths — some of them inconvenient — you might want to ponder on your way out the door. Take them, leave them, throw them on top of the fire if you want, that’s fine. Rooting interests are personal things. You want to feel fury? Feel fury. You are allowed that much as a fan. Passion comes with two faces.
Truth 1(a): The Knicks would not have made the playoffs without Lin last year. Indisputable. They were a dead team at 8-15, then Mike D’Antoni inserted Lin against the Nets on the night before the Super Bowl, and in an eyeblink they were 15-15 — much of this done without Amar’e Stoudemire in the lineup, all of it without Carmelo Anthony.
Truth 1(b): The Knicks would not have made the playoffs without a 12-5 burst down the stretch. The Knicks were a half-game ahead of the Bucks for the last playoff slot on March 24, one game under .500. They finished as the seventh seed, six games over. And every second of this was done with Lin wearing civvies on the sidelines.
Truth 2(a): Linsanity was, well, otherworldly. It was. The highlights were breathtaking: the Nets game, the T’wolves game, the Lakers game, the Mavericks game. The end of the Raptors game. The teeth of Linsanity was an 8-1 stretch beginning with the Nets and ending with the Mavs, and Lin went berserk: 25.0 points, 9.2 assists, 51-percent shooting, 33 percent from 3. If you like modern metrics, he had an average game score (which adds and subtracts every meaningful stat) of 18.9 during that stretch. By comparison LeBron James, the league MVP, was 22.9 for the year and Chris Paul’s was 19.3.
Truth 2(b): And here’s where we release the hounds. During that 17-game stretch to end the season, here are some numbers for another member of the Knicks, performing when every game was critical to the cause: 29.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 49 percent shooting, 43 percent from 3. Game-score average of 20.8.
Yes. That would be Carmelo Anthony.
WILL BAD BLOOD BETWEEN KNICKS AND ROCKETS LINGER?
Sam Amick of SI.com: The root of the Knicks’ frustrations with the Rockets, sources said, was the fact that they broke what is seen as an unspoken rule in negotiations by changing an informal offer during the moratorium that ran from July 1 to July 11. Houston initially offered Lin a three-year, $19.5 million deal, and those figures were widely reported after it was put forth.
The Knicks, at the time, seemed more than willing to match the offer. But the Rockets would later change it to the three-year, $25.1 million deal that was much tougher for New York to swallow. The third-year salary was increased from about $9 million to nearly $15 million, a figure that — when coupled with the NBA’s new punitive luxury tax that starts in 2013-14 — would wreak havoc on the Knicks’ already-bloated 2014-15 payroll. The Rockets recently had traded point guard Kyle Lowry to the Raptors for a first-round pick, which was seen as a major part of their proposal to try to acquire Magic center Dwight Howard. They also failed to re-sign free agent Goran Dragic, creating a void at point guard that Lin will now fill.
“We no longer had Lowry or Dragic,” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said in an interview with SI.com late Tuesday night, “and at that point we thought it made sense to offer him more money and increase our chances of getting him.”
The Knicks, in turn, decided to take part in two days of gamesmanship, an attempt at some silly sort of retribution. As the Houston Chronicle reported, Rockets officials spent most of Saturday attempting (unsuccessfully) to physically deliver the offer sheet to Knicks officials who were dodging them at every turn.
Teams have three days to match restricted free agent offers, but the clock can’t start until the offer sheet is physically delivered. After failed attempts to find Grunwald at his team’s practice and even at his hotel, the offer sheet was eventually delivered via FedEx to the Knicks’ offices in New York. But the uncertainty over whether the reported deadline of Tuesday at 11:59.59 p.m. ET had been established remained a point of disagreement until the end.