My knee-jerk reaction was, "The Knicks are crazy if they let Jeremy Lin walk."
The rumor seemed too crazy to be true; the guy who single-handedly resurrected an organization was going to be turned down an offer to stay with them. Did Knicks management collectively have a lobotomy? Did they forget that less than six months ago, this guy was giving the team, and the city of New York, one of the most memorable stretches in the history of sports?
Did they watch Lin drop 38 on Kobe Bryant and the Lakers? Or his 23 points and 10 assists against the Wizards, showing that he can outshine John Wall? Do the Knicks remember his 28 points against the Utah Jazz in his first start as an NBA player? Did owner James Dolan forget Lin's 28 points and 14 assists in a win against the then-defending champion Dallas Mavericks? Perhaps most memorably, did they forget his game winner in Toronto against the Raptors?
The list goes on and on.
The promise was there. The Knicks needed to lock him up. Mayor Michael Bloomberg should've given him the keys to the city. Former head coach Mike D'antoni should've give him part of his coaching salary; Lin was the reason D'antoni lived to see another day.
Not so fast.
Lin was no doubt amazing. I won't waste any more space describing the sort of joy I, along with every other person on the planet, got in watching a nobody emerge into a potential All-Star.
But let's not forget. For a guy who started only 25 games in his first, real NBA season, the $25 million contract that he's being offered by the Houston Rockets is, well, as Carmelo Anthony said, "ridiculous."
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey apparently sees things in players that virtually no one else does. Weeks before his offer to Lin, he gave Chicago Bulls center Omer Asik virtually the same deal, paying the Turkish big man $25 million over three-years with roughly $15 million owed in the third year. Asik no doubt has upside, but that's a lot of money for a guy who averaged three points and 14 minutes per game last season. We'll see how Asik and Lin fair in the NBA over the long run. If they're amazing, Morey is a genius. If they're busts, he contends with Dolan as one of the worst executives in sports.
While all of the "linsanity" last season was nothing short of amazing, we've got to remember that Lin had the opportunity to step into the spotlight because a rash of injuries had plagued the Knicks early-on in the season.
In virtually every one of his 25 games as a starter, there was at least one Knick sitting out. Carmelo Anthony and Iman Shumpert were out for part of the season, and Amare Stoudemire had taken a leave of absence because his brother had just passed away. Somebody needed to score and it wasn't going to be Jared Jeffries. Those absences created opportunities.
That Lin had his stretch against a fairly weak schedule is all the more concerning; during that "linsane" stretch, the Knicks played mostly sub .500 teams, going up against the likes of the Raptors, Nets, Wizards, Hornets, Kings and Wolves.
Yes, there was that game against the Lakers and the Mavericks, but there was also that 14 point loss to the Miami Heat in which Lin had as many points as turnovers (8), and shot an abysmal 1-11 from the field. If Lin is going to be your point guard, why pay him $25 million if his worst game of the season came against the best team in the league?
If the Knicks let Lin walk, it's not like they'll be left with a bunch of scrubs in the backcourt.
The difference talent-wise between Lin and Raymond Felton isn't as great as the difference in their salaries. Lin is going to be paid nearly $15 million in his third year with the Rockets, and $25 million over the next three years.
Felton, on the other hand, who is arguably as talented as Lin and, at the very least, a more proven player, is expected to make $10 million over three years with the Knicks. And, New York now has a Hall-of-Fame point guard in Jason Kidd coming off the bench for $3 million. Kidd, who will no doubt have a diminished role, should figure to still be brilliant in the second unit.
The bottom line is the Knicks have already spent way too much on players who are now viewed as overpaid. Stoudemire is not worth $100 million and you could argue that Anthony doesn't deserve that kind of money either. But that's the reality for the Knicks; $200 million between two players and nothing really to show for it.
If they didn't spend that kind of money, then maybe they'd be more inclined to give a wildly unproven player $25 million over three years. But the Knicks letting Lin go to Houston, opting instead for Felton and Kidd, would be the first financially responsible decision they've made in a long time.
And there's nothing linsane about that.