Jeremy Lin's meteoric rise into basketball stardom took a detour yesterday when the Knicks decided to let their breakout point guard go to the Houston Rockets last night. Thanks to the way the Rockets structured their $25 million-over-three-years offer, the Knicks would have been hit with around/at least $40 million in luxury tax on top of a $15 million third year salary for Lin. And that hurt notoriously mercurial Knicks owner James Dolan. According to the Daily News, "Dolan, according to sources, felt he was deceived by the 23-year-old Lin."
ESPN's Ian O'Connor writes, "Jim Dolan just made one of the dumbest moves of his basketball life, which is saying a mouthful... [The Knicks] had every right to offer Lin a four-year deal for $24 million at the start of free agency, a bid they never made. 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." (The NY Times' Howard Beck has an informational FAQ about Lin's salary, the Knicks' luxury tax situation, and more.)
A Knicks source tells O'Connor, "You have to blame Jeremy Lin at least for a little of the way this went down... Jeremy was the king of New York, and he could've made up that extra 5 to 6 million by staying with the Knicks. But now he's going to get the things every NBA player craves -- playing time and shots. He's going to average 20 and 10 for a Houston team that stinks."
Lin was apparently surprised that the Knicks, who had been saying last week that he'd return to New York as the starting point guard, decided to pass on him by securing Raymond Felton, another point guard, from Portland. The Post sent a reporter to Lin's family's home in Palo Alto: "'No, no, no, no,' was the initial response from Lin who seemed genuinely surprised to see a reporter at the door before closing it while saying 'sorry.' A second attempt to talk to Lin was met with his mother politely saying her son didn’t want to talk."
A source close to Lin says New Yorks' snub will work out for him, "Any slight or disrespect he will milk for all it's worth. He's going to be motivated."
And many feel like it's the same old Knicks. Lin fan Jeff Yang wrote in his WSJ.com column that he mourns losing the "Dork Knight," "[Next] season, the story continues. Not the Jeremy Lin fairy tale, but the grim shaggy-dog joke that New York hoops fans have faced since the Dolans first took over and asserted their commitment to mediocrity. By signing Lin, the Rockets are taking smart risks to construct a team for tomorrow. Meanwhile, by shopping at the Antique Roadshow — Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas! — the Knicks are building a competitive team for the 1990s."
A 70-year-old cabdriver in Bay Shore told Newsday, "They didn't recognize stardom when it's looking them in the face... The recent history of the Knicks indicates they're going straight to the tank. They got a team of empty jerseys and prima donnas," while a pastor in Farmingdale said, "I was surprised they didn't give him [Lin] a second chance to play. He gave us some hope for a moment. He was exciting. You didn't know what was going to happen next." Like that Lakers victory in February... sigh, memories: