Jeremy Lin to Houston Rockets: Winners and Losers of Linsanity's Big Move
As Howard Beck of The New York Times first reported, the New York Knicks have declined to match the Rockets' offer sheet to Lin, a restricted free agent, worth $25.1 million over three years. Lin will reportedly earn approximately $5 million in each of his first two seasons before the "poison pill" of his contract—nearly $15 million in year three—takes effect.
The list of those affected by Linsanity's move to H-Town is a lengthy one to be sure, with plenty of interested parties falling on either side of the fence and some finding footing on both.
But who fits into which category as a result of the latest chapter of the Lin saga? Read on to find out!
Winner: Jeremy Lin
The biggest winner of all, of course, is Jeremy Lin. The plucky point guard out of Harvard essentially managed to parlay a 26-game audition-turned-pop-culture-phenomenon with the New York Knicks into a $25 million windfall, all of which will likely be in his bank account by the time he turns 27.
Surely, Lin signing his new deal will sound something like this.
And if he proves to be more than just a flash in the pan over the next three years, he'd stand to make even more in the summer of 2015.
Not bad for a guy who was couch surfing between the NBA and the D-League just a few months ago.
Better yet, in the final year of his deal, Lin will earn almost as much as any one of Miami's Big Three.
Kudos, then, to Mr. Lin for beating the odds and landing a massive contract. After all, it's not every day that a lowly Harvard grad makes it in this big, bad world.
Loser: New York Knicks
The Knicks now have the unenviable task of trying to contend for a title out of the top-heavy Eastern Conference over the next three years with Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd at point guard.
Yeah...good luck with that.
Not that Linsanity would've made the difference between the Knicks being merely a playoff team and vaulting into championship contention. Lin's a solid player who can score, dish and dribble better than the average bear, but is by no means an elite talent capable of turning the hodgepodge of Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler et al. into a team that can challenge the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics and even the Brooklyn Nets for supremacy in the East.
Still, if the Knicks did indeed decline to match Houston's offer sheet out of fear of the ballooning luxury-tax penalties yet to come, then they're already screwed. After all, it wasn't Lin who decided to hand out beaucoup bucks to 'Melo, STAT and Chandler, but rather, New York's higher-ups.
Winner: Houston Rockets
As for the Rockets, they finally managed to land the star they've long been waiting for...
Err...I mean...a star they've been waiting to bring back ever since he blew up after the Rockets cut him in training camp.
Jeremy Lin is certainly no Dwight Howard, though the Rockets have a unique understanding of how best to capitalize on the young point guard's popularity among Asian-Americans and in massive East Asian markets, namely China and Taiwan. According to a report by The Atlantic, Houston's franchise value doubled between 2001 and 2009, when Yao Ming was still playing regularly.
In other words, Yao's notoriety among the very same markets that Lin may well penetrate (and the effect he had on the team's on-court performance) helped the Rockets to increase their value nearly 37 percent more than the average NBA team over that same span.
Granted, Lin is nowhere near the icon in Asia that Yao was when he arrived stateside, nor is Lin's impact as a basketball player on par with Yao's.
That being said, the Rockets understand how best to maximize Lin's value better than most and may well be able to count on having one of their own starting in the All-Star Game on a yearly basis if all goes according to plan.
Loser: Carmelo Anthony
If you thought Carmelo Anthony caught too much flak for the Knicks' struggles before, just wait and see what happens if/when Jeremy Lin proves to be a roaring success in Houston.
'Melo recently referred to Lin's "poison pill" contract as "ridiculous," though he was referring not to Lin getting paid so much as Houston GM Daryl Morey's ploy to grant him $14.8 million in the final year of the deal.
A ploy, as it were, to deter the Knicks from matching.
Still, silly conventions like nuance and detail couldn't keep Carmelo's comments from setting off another needless firestorm. As a result, his latest comments about seeing Lin back in a Knicks jersey seem more like a 180 on a previous stance rather than the reiteration of what may well be a long-held belief.
In turn, 'Melo finds himself back in the cross hairs, or at least in all-too-perfect position to be scapegoated should Linsanity take root in Texas. Don't be surprised, then, if Anthony is painted as the root of all evil by the New York media machine if the Rockets take off and the Knicks continue to stumble in the years to come.
Loser: Tyson Chandler
At least 'Melo's individual success on the court won't be too heavily impacted by Lin's departure. He won't need a young point guard of Lin's caliber to set him up, seeing as how he's one of the best isolation scorers in the NBA.
Tyson Chandler, on the other hand, won't be so lucky. He thrived as Lin's chief pick-and-roll partner, using his size, length and athleticism to flush home lob passes time and again.
Now, it'll be back to "just" defending and rebounding for the big Olympian, unless Raymond Felton and/or Jason Kidd can fill that gaping void in his basketball life.
Winner/Loser: Dwight Howard
Any bit of news involving the Houston Rockets these days inevitably leads back to Dwight Howard, which, furthermore, means that it's cause for some measure of confusion.
Which certainly makes sense in this case, since it's difficult to determine whether Superman counts as a "winner" or a "loser" in the aftermath of the Jeremy Lin signing. Per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle, Lin's arrival won't affect the Rockets' pursuit of Howard, as they'd already taken into account the strong possibility that Linsanity would land in Space City.
No report has yet suggested that Dwight would actually want to go to Houston (or anywhere other than Brooklyn), so in that sense, he's still a loser. On the flip side, though, the Rockets may still serve as a launching pad for Howard's escape from Orlando, at the very least.
And, if he does wind up in Houston for a year, he'll have a point guard who'll be able to get him the ball when and where he wants it.
Winner/Loser: Daryl Morey
Rockets GM Daryl Morey finds himself in a similarly ambivalent position. After working diligently to upgrade Houston's roster after Yao's untimely retirement, Morey finally landed himself a marquee free agent about whom fans can get excited.
In the process, though, Morey let Goran Dragic walk to the Phoenix Suns and traded Kyle Lowry to the Toronto Raptors. Dragic and Lowry are both better players than Lin at this point in time, though neither name carries the pop-culture cachet that Lin's does.
As with any front-office move, judgement on Morey's maneuvers in this matter can't reasonably be passed for at least another year or two, until Lin has a chance to prove himself on the court.
Especially since anything involving Linsanity is so prone to polarization.
Even then, Morey's most important marks will have to wait for the resolution of the ongoing Dwight Howard fiasco.
Winner: Omer Asik
Then again, who needs Dwight Howard when you've got Omer Asik, am I right...?
OK, so nobody's likely to mistake a backup center who's averaged just under three points and a tad over four rebounds per game in two NBA seasons for the best big man on the planet, though both Howard and Asik are currently 26.
But for Asik's part, he stands to benefit tremendously from playing with Jeremy Lin if the Chicago Bulls decide not to match Houston's Lin-like offer sheet. The Turkish-born seven-footer would be the one for whom Lin's lobs and pick-and-roll passes would be targeted.
Whether Asik has the requisite hands to catch and finish those passes effectively is another story. But if he does, he should see a spike in his productivity, as much from finally playing starter's minutes as from having a passing point guard like Lin with whom to partner.
Loser: James Dolan
If the Knicks come out as losers in the latest chapter of Linsanity, then team owner James Dolan certainly has to share some of the burden.
Not just based on his reputation, either. To be sure, Jimmy D. is largely responsible for signing off on the high-priced roster that may or may not have made retaining Lin prohibitively expensive.
Then again, what exactly is "prohibitively expensive" to a billionaire heir who's long had a habit of spending lavishly on his team, even (and especially) to its detriment? The luxury-tax penalties due to take effect during the 2014-15 season are decidedly daunting, but can certainly be worked around between now and then, especially with so many expiring contracts due to be sitting on New York's books.
It's possible, too, that Dolan's decision wasn't just about money. Rumblings in The New York Daily News suggest that Jimmy D. was none too pleased to see Lin hire his own publicist or run off to field offer sheets elsewhere. In his mind, Lin owed him much more loyalty after what he and the Knicks did to bolster Lin's career.
If that's the case, it'd be easy to picture Dolan sitting in his office, arms crossed, harrumphing like a spoiled child who's just been spurned for the umpteenth time.
Frankly, Lin didn't "owe" the Knicks anything. He was a free agent, and so, like any free agent would, he went about finding the best deal he could for himself after the Knicks declined to lock him up first.
And if Jimmy D. wants to throw a tantrum over it, then he'd only be making himself look stupid.
Winner: Basketball Fans Everywhere
Take money out of the equation, and NBA fans become the biggest winners of all.
Even with money as an object, hoop heads stand to benefit tremendously from Lin's move to Houston, if only because they won't have to hear about him constantly anymore.
New York has a way of turning unknowns into stars in an instant, especially in this day and age of Twitter and the concurrent oversaturation of sports media. If something "important" happens in the Big Apple sports scene, then everyone who watches and follows sports has to hear about it ad nauseum.
That was certainly the case with Lin, whose 26-game stint was enough to vault the seventh seed in the East to the top of the sports news cycle, night after agonizing night.
Houston, on the other hand, isn't nearly the same sort of hotbed for media hype that New York is. One need only consider the vast chasm in coverage of Brooklyn and Houston's respective pursuits of Dwight Howard to understand that.
Of course, that's not to suggest that all the pundits and talk jocks won't wax poetic about the Knickerbockers anyway, so long as Carmelo and Amar'e are still standing steady enough to be knocked down by the hot winds of criticism.
But, at least we won't have to hear so many overblown stories and heated debates about the not-so-little point guard that could, so long as he's stashed in Houston.
That is, until/unless the Rockets pry Dwight Howard from the Magic, at which point it'll be up to the Houstonian media to make a fuss over it.