For all the discussion of what Jeremy Lin rakes in for the Knicks internationally, there is precious little evidence to suggest that such money actually exists. Individual teams do not make direct money from broadcasts overseas. The Knicks make no more from a game seen in China than, say, the Indiana Pacers would.
The Knicks can, however, profit from advertisements shown courtside that enterprising international companies might buy. This is a nice bonus to be sure, but globalized sport is hardly the golden money faucet we sometimes conceive it to be. International profits are often gleaned like this—on the margins, in indirect ways.
While it is (relatively) easy to generate profit from, say, a fast food chain overseas, this is in part because the product is sold directly in that country. Your American company sells burgers in China to Chinese people. It's not so complex. Games broadcast from thousands of miles away? That's complicated, especially when it comes to negotiating with state-owned television companies. The Knicks aren't getting a billion dollars every time a Lin game gets huge ratings in Shanghai.
Keep in mind, I said that the money is hard to find from international sources. At the height of Linsanity, the Knicks were cashing in domestically, with Forbes declaring Lin's potential to generate $150 million for the team. Interest was galvanized, ticket sales were up and Lin's ascendance gave James Dolan leverage in an ugly battle with Time Warner Cable. You could posit that JL has made his biggest profit contribution, based on the Time Warner truce.
There is no question that Lin, if right and playing well, could be a domestic boon to Dolan and company. He would need to be, as Lin could cost the Knicks $58 million in Year 3 of his contract (via Deadspin). The operative word is "could," as the Knicks could move some salaries (or Lin himself) to avoid such a tax hit.
Those who advocate that New York sign Lin for the economic reasons alone need to realize that it's not so simple. If the kid works out, there are economic opportunities to be had. If Lin plays poorly, he'll have the meager international cachet of Yi Jianlian.
I'm betting on the former, though, because I believe the kid's got the goods. This is a decision that should be divorced from international appeal, an energized Madison Square Garden and all those other trappings associated with the Linsanity craze. Keeping the Harvard baller makes sense for basketball reasons, to borrow a phrase from David Stern. The Knicks would not be trading wins for hype; they hopefully would be getting both.
First off, Jeremy Lin is 23 years old and posted a PER (player efficiency rating) of roughly 20. He was 10th among point guards in this measure, and he has much room for improvement. Some may point to Lin's lack of a left hand and shaky jumper as obstacles. I'd posit the opposite. These flaws are an untapped potential.
Lin has demonstrated an ability to get to the rack, even with a fairly unrefined game. Imagine how good he could get with some age and experience. His "poison pill" contract balloons in the third year of the back-loaded contract, but by that time, the Knicks will know what they have. If Lin isn't the goods, they can trade that ballooning year as an expiring deal and be done with the experiment.
There is also the matter of what the Knicks have in place of Lin's services. The answer is not much. Ray Felton was awful last year, and I'm not sure what forces are set to elevate him beyond his recent production. Jason Kidd is quite literally middle-aged. Unlike Steve Nash, the 6.2-assist, 5.5-points per game Kidd is showing that age.
So, Lin could get better at a position the Knicks don't really have filled by anyone reliably capable. The Knicks aren't close to a title and desperately need an improving player to get them within striking distance. From a purely basketball-based perspective, re-signing Lin looks to be the right move.