Jeremy Lin: NY Knicks Must Match Rockets' Offer to Keep Pace in Burgeoning East
The Houston Rockets inked Lin to a four-year, $30 million offer sheet, and although matching it would result in the Knicks taking a huge financial leap of faith, it is something they have to do.
The Knicks entered last season with a lot of promise after signing center Tyson Chandler in free agency and adding him to the formidable duo of Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, but things got off to a rocky start. New York couldn't find any sort of rhythm throughout the early part of the year, and it ultimately led to head coach Mike D'Antoni being fired in favor of Mike Woodson.
One great decision that D'Antoni managed to make before getting the ax, though, was making Lin the starting point guard.
The Knicks weren't getting any production from Toney Douglas or Mike Bibby, so D'Antoni decided to take a chance on an unproven bench player. That decision led to the Knicks' best run of success all season and created a new star in the Big Apple.
The 23-year-old Harvard graduate went on to average 14.6 points and 6.2 assists per game for the Knickerbockers and is now viewed as a potential NBA superstar. The sample size is obviously small, though, and Lin still has to mesh properly with Anthony, Stoudemire, Chandler, et al., but Lin appears to be New York's key to ultimate success.
Is retaining Lin a necessity in order for the Knicks to remain competitive?
New York did sign former Dallas Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd, but the future Hall of Famer is 39 years old and can't be counted on to carry the full-time load, at least not for more than one season.
Lin, on the other hand, could possibly develop into an elite point guard who will flourish in the league for years to come.
That is far from a certainty, but at least it's a possibility.
The Knicks' organization has to look at things from the standpoint of keeping up with the Joneses. The Eastern Conference is becoming quite strong, and New York has to do something in order to make up ground.
The Miami Heat are defending champions, and they aren't going anywhere. The Boston Celtics promise to be contenders once again next season. The Brooklyn Nets be on the verge of creating a triumvirate of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Dwight Howard.
Add to that the strong team play of the Indiana Pacers and the potential of the Chicago Bulls once Derrick Rose returns from injury, and it becomes quite clear that simply making the playoffs next season won't be easy.
Even with all the talent the Knicks had last year, they managed to nab only the No. 7 seed and were brushed aside in five games by the Heat in the first round.
With so many other Eastern Conference teams getting better, the Knicks can't afford to get worse.
Houston signed Lin to a so-called "poison-pill contract," as the final two years of his contract call for him to be paid $10 million per season, but New York must swallow that poison pill and live with the consequences. It is going to cost the Knicks a lot in terms of salary and luxury tax in the long run, but that is a small price to pay for a winning product.
The Knicks might be able to survive this year with Kidd at point guard and Lin in Houston, but if Linsanity runs wild in the Lone Star State, then the backlash will be unfathomable. A vocal majority of Knicks fans believe that Lin can be an elite player at his position, and if he becomes precisely that with the Rockets, then the fanbase could most definitely turn on the organization in a big way.
That doesn't mean that the Knicks should approach this entire situation afraid that they are going to make a mistake, but they have to do what is best for them competitively.
It isn't as if New York is going to have the cap space to make a high-impact signing in the near future anyway, so matching the Rockets' offer and keeping Lin seems like a no-brainer.
The Knicks have already brought back essentially every impact player from last year's squad, and it only makes sense to retain the guy who could make everything go.
Perhaps Lin's development may not match the hype he has received, but he is the Knicks' only true hope at title contention.
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