Jeremy Lin: Why Leaving NYC Was Right Call
Lin signed a three-year, $25 million offer sheet with the Houston Rockets. The Knicks decided against making a better offer and, in the process, brought the franchise back down to earth.
Houston waived Jeremy Lin back when he was Jeremy Lin, that guy from Harvard University, which was about seven months ago. Now, he returns as Jeremy Lin, the man responsible for the global fetish known as Linsanity.
Even the most casual sports fan—the one who catches the five minute highlights clip on the nightly news—knows something about Lin. I will only spend a few sentences recapping because, in the age of 24/7 news, Lin’s legend will likely grow as I write.
Lin played four years on Harvard University’s basketball team, whose previously most famous player was arguably Arne Duncan, the United States Department of Education secretary. That is for Duncan’s government career, not his basketball career, mind you.
After Harvard, Lin went undrafted and signed with the Golden State Warriors. Lin played in 29 games with the Warriors in 2010-11. After that season, Lin was waived and signed with the Houston Rockets. The Rockets then waived Lin, who signed with the New York Knicks on Dec. 27, 2011.
Lin made his debut in the Knicks’ starting lineup on Feb. 6, 2012. He dropped 28 points on the Utah Jazz. Over the entire 2011-12 season, Lin played in 35 games, started in 25 of them and averaged about 15 points and 6 assists. All 35 Lin games occurred in February and March, as he then injured his knee. This made him unable to play in the postseason with New York.
Now, after a two-month audition on Broadway, Lin is getting paid big. Just not by the Knicks.
I think Jeremy Lin is better off not in New York City, even though he claims he preferred to play there is 2012-13. In this slideshow, I will give four reasons why.
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Jeremy Lin’s star would shine brighter than the entire New York Knicks franchise, and that would not work out well.
The Knicks have established NBA superstars like Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and now Jason Kidd. All three of them are more proven players than Lin, who would have overshadowed them too much had he stayed in the Big Apple.
It does not take a Harvard graduate like Lin to know that chemistry keeps things working correctly. The chemistry project—including Lin—that Knicks general manger Glen Grunwald would have submitted to the science fair known as the NBA would have failed miserably.
New York is making a good move in letting some other NBA franchise manage Lin’s hype.
Chris Chambers/Getty Images
No, this does not mean Jeremy Lin’s spin moves seem better suited for a video game. This is how many games—64—Lin has played in the NBA.
Out of those 64 games, Lin has started 25. None of his 64 games have come in the postseason.
Maybe Lin will go on to become a Hall of Fame player but, at this stage of his career, the New York Knicks were right not to commit more than the $25 million the Houston Rockets offered. New York would be better off throwing that money at an elite NBA guard who wants a trade or is nearing free agency.
In short, Lin has not proven himself long enough in the NBA to warrant such a contract. Also, I think Linsanity will only increase in power with his new Houston Rockets deal, creating a bigger struggle between the Knicks' star players.
Houston's Back-Loaded Contract
Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
The Houston Rockets back-loaded Jeremy Lin’s contract, which effectively scared the New York Knicks away from offering Lin more money.
Zach Lowe of SI.com broke it down:
“Under the terms of the offer sheet, the Knicks would have owed Lin nearly $15 million in [2014-15]. Giving Lin that much would have taken New York’s payroll, based on the current roster, to about $92.5 million, nearly $20 million over the projected luxury tax for that season. The league’s new, harsh tax rates will be in effect then, and exceeding the threshold by $20 million would come with a tax hit of a whopping $45 million. Lin’s salary would crate the bulk of that penalty.”
Lowe said there are ways the Knicks could have worked around this but, in the end, Lin’s lack of NBA experience and playing style alongside Carmelo Anthony might have created more risks than rewards.
I also believe Lin should not earn a larger portion of the Knicks’ salary allotment over players like Anthony, Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler at this time.
The Knicks' newest point guards, Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd.
Nick Laham/Getty Images
The New York Knicks have more proven point guards on their roster than Jeremy Lin.
On July 16, the Knicks traded for Raymond Felton. On July 5, Jason Kidd agreed to a deal with the team.
Sure, Felton’s arrival somewhat signaled the end for Lin in New York, but what if all three had stayed together in 2012-13? I imagine they would have all split time on the court, which would have created inconsistency at the position.
Felton had a poor showing for the Portland Trail Blazers but, prior to then, he played well as a Knick. The head coach at the time—Mike D’Antoni—is gone, but the Knicks are hoping for some silver lining.
In addition, Kidd might be nearing 40 years old, but he can still distribute the basketball with the best of the NBA. Kidd is second all-time in assists. Granted, Kidd said he would back-up Lin, but, as one of this generation’s greatest NBA players, should he really have to sit on the bench all season as the third-string point guard?
If Jeremy Lin once again became Jeremy Lin, then Knicks fans would be calling out the front office for investing so much in him. This would create tension similar to the Tim Tebow effect. Mark Sanchez is the New York Jets’ starting quarterback but, if he plays poorly, then you know Jets fans will call for Tebow.
It is not good when a team's most popular player is a backup. This could have happened with Lin, but the Knicks made the right choice to never have to deal with the possibility.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
As a fan of underdogs, I wish Jeremy Lin the best as a Houston Rocket. I hope he goes on to prove the New York Knicks wrong and becomes an NBA superstar for his play, and not simply for his fame.
With that said, though, the Knicks were smart not to wait it out with Lin. For New York, there was too much risk involved—for the reasons I stated above and more.
In Houston, Lin will become the unquestioned star player immediately. Perhaps Lin’s play will draw other solid NBA players to the Rockets, where they could form a new Big Three (or more).
Even when Lin was a Madison Square Garden sensation for 35 games, he averaged 14.6 points, 6.2 assists, 1.6 steals and 3.1 rebounds per game. These are great numbers for a player of Lin’s experience (rather, lack thereof).
However, what if Lin maintained those numbers over the next three years? Given the contract, would New York have felt good about that?
Remember, Lin was undrafted. Nobody saw Lin as a “can’t-miss” prospect. Sure, there are undrafted players who achieve great heights in the NBA. In fact, John Friel of Bleacher Report recently created a list of who he thought were the best-ever undrafted NBA players.
Lin could be on this list a few years down the road. Right now, though, the investment the Knicks would have needed to make to keep Lin is far too much in 2012.
As always, I welcome your thoughts below in the comments section.