Before you go protest outside Madison Square Garden, start an online petition or shriek for James Dolan’s hide, check yourself. There is only one person to blame for Jeremy Lin’s move to Houston. And that’s Jeremy Lin.
You can’t blame James Dolan and the Knicks for not matching the Rockets’ retort. Performance-wise, Lin has not yet proven he is worthy of that albatross $15 million third year, one that would cost New York two to four times as much in cap penalties in 2014-15 if Steve Novak and the team’s core (Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler) remain intact.
Lin has started 25 games in his NBA career. Chandler, NBA champion and 2012 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, will be making less money that year.
You can’t blame Daryl Morey and the Houston Rockets, either. To them, the additional coin is worth it. Both their point guards, Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic, are gone. Houston gets a dynamic, albeit unpolished, scoring point guard, one that can be built around to forge a contender.
The Rockets are still trying to land Dwight Howard and after that Chris Paul, and will have the cap room to do both, partly in thanks to how cheap the viable Lin is coming for the first two years ($5 million apiece) and his contract counting overall as an average of the three years.
Lin is the lure for the Rockets' dream scenario, and with that, the Rockets’ contract offer suddenly looks rational. Compound it if they can convert Jeremy into a shooting guard if Chris comes on board. Current shooting guard Kevin Martin is in the last year of his contract.
What we have here is a Harvard grad overplaying his hand against a touchy card shark, James Dolan. We have an Econ-major playing both sides and doubling down in Texas against Dolly Brunson, only to leave money on the table in New York, definitely in the short run and very probably in the long run.
There was a perfectly reasonable (and doable) contract on the table the first time around. Four years for around $29 million with a manageable $9+ million team option in the final year. Lin signed the offer sheet with the comfort of knowing the Knicks would no doubt match, as so stated by Knicks' coach Mike Woodson. Fair enough.
It seemed as though a respectable business deal was going down, the Knicks letting Lin test the market and partially dictate what might have been his salary on Broadway, where he got his big break.
But then what happened? A couple days later the Rockets come back with a poison pill contract, one the Knicks can’t afford (or couldn’t possibly justify with the tax assessment). Lin, surely knowing the fiscal consequences of signing that offer sheet in this economy, did it anyway.
Did he think the Knicks would match anything? Maybe. Did he push for more from Houston under the spell of hubris? Was he the impetus for the hike? That’s the word. He got on a plane, went back to Vegas with his Knick assurances and negotiated for more money.
Does Jeremy Lin want to be a Knick? The answer at worst is “No.” At best, it’s not his (or generally any professional sports player’s) top priority. Money is. And, hey this is America, Lin isn't truly established yet and who knows how injury-prone he may be. In a way, you can't fault him for taking the insecure route: get the most cash you can now.
But in so doing, Lin played his financial hand wrong, and crossed the bloatedly sensitive James Dolan in the process. Never mind Dolan is the kind of guy who will shoot himself in the foot to begrudge a point. Maybe, even with the new offer, the Knicks would still profit from collateral Lin...not the one on the court, but the one at the retail cash register.
Dolan's temper will prevent us from ever knowing. No one can expect even he to essentially pay $45 million-$65 million three seasons hence just to lock up a still-relative question mark now.
In the meantime, Lin will make less money in Houston, 1,500 miles from Madison Avenue, over the short and long term. The $10 million he’ll get, plus endorsements, in the first two years will turn out to be a pittance compared to what he would have made in New York.
Long term, and with James Dolan’s normally indiscriminate deep pockets and the multi-year job security available, Lin would have raked in more cash, and over a longer period, if he stayed in New York.
To top it all off, there’s a mutiny afoot: one, apparently, whose seeds were sown during the season but are now sprouting in the light of the NBA's summer.
One derived partly from Carmelo Anthony’s, J.R. Smith’s and the like’s jealousy? greed? ego? intolerance?...but also from Lin’s own doing, his failure to properly navigate the complex Big City-Knicks-Anthony-Dolan political landscape.
Couple that with muttering about how Lin saved himself rather than push to make it back in time for the playoffs, and this last back-biting bit has finished off any hope.
The die is cast, tossed by Jeremy Lin. Linsanity in New York is over. The Knicks will not match and they shouldn’t, for financial reasons, as a matter of principle and sadly, it appears, for team morale, justified or not. Lin-Anthony just isn't going to work.