No decision exists in a vacuum. "Overpaid" isn't a fixed term in the NBA. Given a blank roster, it is difficult to know just how much value any star commands.
Houston has that essentially blank roster. It's no big deal to pay Jeremy Lin $25 million over three years when you have few commitments. This is a league where Jeff Green makes $36 million over four seasons, where Brook Lopez signs a max contract. In the grand scheme of NBA spending, this isn't an immense amount.
But, it is for the Knicks because they've spent so much elsewhere. Three years from now, when Lin's "poison pill" is set to kick in, New York owes roughly $62 million to their big three of Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. Their amnesty has been used on Chauncey Billups, so there are precious few ways out of spending this cash.
Chandler, in his defense and because of his defense, has been worth every penny. New York's problems stem from how a) Amar'e and Melo seem to fit poorly together and b) Amar'e is not what he once was.
What makes this mismatch especially frustrating is that Carmelo Anthony, for all his hero ball tendencies, was spectacular at power forward when Amar'e sat with bulging discs. It was as though the new position forced New York's top scorer into better shot selection.
Anthony cut all those contested long twos in favor of work on the block. His combination of strength and quickness puts many opposing power forwards at a defensive disadvantage.
The league is replete with wing defenders who can contest Carmelo Anthony jumpers. The league is lacking 4's who can contain Carmelo Anthony near the rim.
But Amar'e had to come back, because Amar'e is making over $100 million. The Knicks cannot bring themselves to give up on their power forward.
First, there's the embarrassment in admitting to a bad contract. Second, there's the elimination of the possibility that Amar'e might make himself tradable with improved play. Third, the Knicks are rarely about what's best, basketball-wise.
An Anthony-Chandler frontcourt makes strategic sense, but for off-court reasons, it will be abandoned.
How does Jeremy Lin fit into all this? Well, his is a game that depends on the pick-and-roll. Such offensive sets are the only hope of coaxing quality play out of Stoudemire, who struggles to create his own shot due to injuries and diminished athleticism.
But Amar'e must share the court with 'Melo, for whom the pick-and-roll isn't so necessary. Anthony prefers to dominate the rock from the perimeter, or, if he's playing power forward, get an entry pass on the block. Since Carmelo is a better player right now, he demands the offensive reins.
The result is a muddled mess of Lin trying to run a 1-4 pick-and-roll, while attempting to cater to Anthony's needs. Lin is not a complementary guy, so much as he's an attacker and creator. With so much of the emphasis on Anthony, Lin is left with little to do. Were he a spot-up ace a la Derek Fisher, that could have worked for New York's offense.
As of now, Lin is not. Much like Carmelo Anthony, he's unhelpful to a team that wants him moving without the rock. Now, it is possible that Jeremy could have cobbled together some sort of pick-and-roll chemistry with Anthony. But were the Knicks going to spend luxury tax on the gamble that they would? Would they make the gamble after Anthony called Lin's deal "ridiculous?"
Simply put, the Knicks spent too much on players who need the ball so much. Lin, Anthony and Stoudemire all fit this category. Amar'e isn't going anywhere because his contract's untradable. Anthony's not going anywhere because he's New York's closest thing to a superstar.
Jeremy Lin was the odd man out. It wasn't that his contract was so steep. It was that the 'Melo and STAT deals crowded out Lin's talents.