For three weeks in February there simply was no bigger name in all of sports than Jeremy Lin.
The Super Bowl was over, March Madness was over a month away. Spring training had yet to start and the NBA season was actually still young. The NBA lockout had delayed the start of the season until Christmas Day 2011.
Jeremy Lin was the ultimate right place, right time sports phenom.
The former D-League player assumed the starting point guard role on the New York Knicks after injuries and substandard play left the Knicks with no other options.
To say he provided a "spark" would be a vast understatement.
With Lin getting big minutes the Knicks roared into the All-Star break having won 10 of their last 13 games. It didn't last of course. The Knicks would eventually conclude a regular season remembered for streaks both good and bad.
Jeremy Lin? His contributions were much appreciated but he also missed the end of the regular season and the playoffs recovering from a torn meniscus. Now after playing only 35 games as a member of the Knicks and only 25 as a starter Lin is a restricted free agent.
The Knicks are highly likely to use their mid-level exception to sign Lin and keep the wildly popular player in New York. Things don't always go as planned. The Knicks have very little room to expand their payroll. While the Knicks will be given ample opportunity to match almost any deal presented to Lin by another team that doesn't mean they will do so.
If another team chose to back-load a lucrative long-term deal the Knicks would be in tough spot. They can't use that mid-level exception to exceed the salary cap for more than two seasons. They might opt to let Lin walk for financial reasons.
If Lin left the Knicks would be in a desperate situation at the point guard position. Baron Davis is lost for all of next season and his entire career could be in jeopardy. The knee injury he sustained in the playoffs was of the catastrophic quality.
Iman Shumpert is also lost for at least the start of next season. He's not a natural point guard but he's a valuable back court presence when healthy. Mike Bibby is a free agent and Toney Douglas has proven he's not good enough to be a starting point guard.
If the Knicks lose Lin the team would find itself in desperate need of a point guard. Not just a backup, the Knicks would need a competent, durable, skilled point man who could give them at least 30 quality minutes a night over the course of an 82 game season and hopefully some playoff games as well.
Here are six players. If Lin leaves the Knicks will need one of these guys.