New York Knicks: Letting Jeremy Lin Go Is the Right Thing to Do
Since I can see the torches and pitchforks already, let's start here: Linsanity was magical.
It made the Knicks matter in a way that fans hadn't seen since Jeff Van Gundy's flop sweat roamed the Garden sidelines. Lin took a cast of misfits and turned it into a cohesive unit, and a really fun one at that. He stepped onto the New York stage without blinking an eye, delivering dagger after dagger as if he was born to do it. It was a wonderful two weeks, and I wish it could've lasted forever (or at least into the postseason).
So for all of that, Jeremy, thank you. But given where the Knicks are right now, it's simply time to move on.
Lost in all of the madness last spring was a dip in Lin's productivity when Mike Woodson took over as head coach in mid-March. Woodson brought his isolation-heavy offense to the Knicks, running things through Carmelo Anthony. Lin's averages came back to earth a bit in the seven games he played under Woodson—around 13 points and five assists per game while shooting a pedestrian 43 percent from the field (via ESPN).
He's at his best when the ball is in his hands, flourishing under Mike D'Antoni's high pick and roll system (the same system, it should be pointed out, that allowed Raymond Felton to put up similar numbers in his time with the Knicks.) D'Antoni consistently gave him the freedom to control things on the floor, and even though it led to a high turnover rate Lin proved to be an explosive playmaker.
Woodson's track record suggests that that won't be the case in 2012. During his playoff runs in Atlanta, Mike Bibby's main role was as a perimeter shooter to provide spacing for Joe Johnson and Al Horford's isolations. In his short time working with Lin last season, Woodson didn't show a lot of trust in his point guard, instead making Carmelo the focal point of the offense.
Should the Knicks Bring Jeremy Lin Back?
That's not Lin's game. His jump shot is average at best, and with Anthony running things in isolation at the elbow and Amar'e Stoudemire now moving down to the low block, he'll be an awkward fit.
I'm not concerned with the economics of Houston's offer sheet to Lin, at least not in terms of what the Knicks can afford. The luxury tax hit is significant, but James Dolan has been down this road before. New York has long been one of the most valuable franchises in the league, and Jeremy Lin will make money in just about every way an NBA star can—from endorsements to jersey sales to overseas marketing, he'll surely pay for himself and then some during the course of a three-year contract.
But just because the Knicks can pay for Lin doesn't mean it won't impact the future of the franchise. Any team that goes into the luxury tax isn't be able to offer the full mid-level exception and loses their bi-annual exception entirely. Given that New York will have almost all of their cap space tied up in Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler over the next few years, those exceptions are the only means of making significant additions to the roster.
I fell in love with Lin last year as much as anyone, but let's not pretend that there's no risk involved in bringing him back at that price tag. Before his injury, he started struggling to adjust to defenses planning around him. We have no idea how he'll develop, especially in a system that doesn't play to his strengths.
Seeing Jeremy Lin in someone else's jersey will definitely be shocking, but Knicks fans need to keep perspective on this. At least we'll always have Linsanity.
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