If Jeremy Lin's meteoric rise to instant superstardom in the Big Apple last season seemed so unbelievable to fans, analysts and students of the game, try to imagine how the Harvard graduate felt.
It's January 2012. Lin's on the brink of being released by his third team in less than two seasons. His inclusion in an injury-depleted Knicks backcourt is reminiscent of what he's already experienced with his first two teams (Golden State and Houston).
With the Warriors, Lin's first NBA franchise, the Palo Alto, Calif. native was handled with kid gloves. When he wasn't on one of his three D-League trips during the 2010-11 season, he was no more than some late-game entertainment in that otherwise forgettable period known simply as garbage time.
When the 2011-12 season rolled around, Lin would have gladly settled for the 9.8 minutes per game he was granted in 29 games during his rookie year. Instead, he spent his Christmas (the NBA's opening night thanks to a lengthy work stoppage) looking for his next employer after being waived twice (first by Golden State, then by Houston) during training camp.
Coach Mike D'Antoni's decision to use Lin was a matter of simply throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what could stick. Lin's production (14.6 points and 6.2 assists per game by year's end) and the team's performance were nothing short of insanity. Or Linsanity that is.
So forgive the point guard if the 2012 free-agency period seemed so foreign. After all, he was no longer searching for a guaranteed contract—he was now weighing which of those contract offers would be most beneficial.
Can Jeremy Lin make an All-Star team playing for the Rockets?
The one he ultimately decided on (a back-loaded three-year, $25 million deal with the Houston Rockets), offered a legitimate chance to realize his long-held All-Star aspirations (via ESPN.com). It also effectively rendered his stay in N.Y. as temporary as his first two NBA stops.
Was Lin in the wrong for signing a contract that Houston designed to make it impossible for New York to match? Of course not.
The Knicks held enough cards at the negotiation table to secure their point guard's future with the franchise. But as NBA teams often do with their restricted free agents, they allowed another organization to set Lin's monetary bar.
Whether or not he'll live up to his new contract is beside the point. The fact of the matter is that the Knicks had the chance to proactively offer Lin a contract at their rate and they balked.
They let the market determine Lin's worth, so they have no complaints about where that figure was set.
Houston may not be the Mecca of Basketball. But it has already proven to be the best setting for Lin's personality and style of play.