The New York Knicks were faced with a tough decision this summer.
Their rags-to-riches point guard Jeremy Lin was a restricted free agent. The Knicks were tasked with gauging the value of an undrafted, twice-waived player who followed a forgettable season-and-a-half with a season-saving stretch of points, assists and New York victories.
The NBA may fashion itself as a purveyor of second chances thanks to the reclamation projects who pay their basketball dues in the Developmental League. But Lin's unpredictable run was unlike anything the basketball world had seen. The Knicks opted to play the waiting game with Lin, allowing another franchise to determine his monetary worth.
The Houston Rockets were years in to a superstar search that had unsuccessfully attempted to lure Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol to the organization. While Lin didn't have the track record of this trio, the Asian-American point guard at least offered the Rockets a potential reopening of the bridge to the Asian market that Yao Ming had forged during his eight-year career.
Not to mention Lin's run, injury-shortened and all, offered enough star potential for Houston GM Daryl Morey to offer the Harvard graduate a three-year, $25.1 million contract offer. The Knicks were granted three days to match this offer, but the guaranteed money (which included a poison pill that would hamper the team's already limited budget in the contract's third year) proved to be more than what New York was willing to pay.
The self-titled Mecca of basketball watched as their manufactured superstar migrated south months before the typical snowbirds who travel in droves away from those unrelenting New York winters. No matter the financial repercussions or on-court effects, New York's failure to match Houston's offer ended that frenzied moment known simply as Linsanity.
New York has yet to show any ill effects of Lin's departure on the hardwood. Coach Mike Woodson's team has an Eastern Conference-leading 8-2 mark and an NBA best plus-10.3 scoring differential.
And Lin hasn't yet had nearly the same effect for the Rockets. His 10.0 points and 6.3 assists aren't terrible, but his 33.3 field-goal percentage is dangerously close to it.
But as was the case with Lin's emergence, his departure's effects extended away from the basketball court.
With the Knicks' Amar'e Stoudemire-Carmelo Anthony-Mike D'Antoni grouping decimating the postseason hopes of that rabid fanbase, Lin brought an excitement to Madison Square Garden unseen in the previous decade. He extended the Knicks coaching tenure of D'Antoni and may have played the biggest role in Anthony's blossoming team-first attitude. Lin made his teammates believe in their abilities and trust that their talents could lead them wherever they wanted to go.
He deserved a better fate than the flip-flopping stances of New York's front office. The Knicks first seemed determined to keep Lin in the family at any cost, then balked at the contract Lin sniffed out during a job search that never should have happened.
New York had ample opportunity to make Lin their top offseason priority. Forget the fact that he looked every bit of a rising star at the game's most pivotal position—the amount of merchandise and ticket sales generated by his return should have made this a sound business decision for a franchise that had never before worried about costs.
But as this organization has had the tendency to do, they again fumbled a fiscal decision.
The Knicks may be OK for this season. They should even enjoy a more lengthy stay in this postseason than they did in the last one.
But the ill effects of the precedents set here will haunt this organization for years to come.
Just like there's no crying in baseball, there's no loyalty in New York Knicks basketball. And that's a dangerous path for any corporation to follow.
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