Jeremy Lin: Owner James Dolan Let PG Go Due to Hurt Feelings, Not Money

Sean Hojnacki@@TheRealHojnackiFeatured ColumnistJuly 24, 2012

Knicks owner James Dolan is head and shoulders below the rest.
Knicks owner James Dolan is head and shoulders below the rest.Chris Trotman/Getty Images

For the 2012-13 season, Jeremy Lin will be playing point guard for the Houston Rockets. The New York Knicks let him walk away and got nothing in return for the global sensation.

But was the reason the "poison pill" third year of the contract offered by Houston, in which Lin was slated to make over $14 million?

That would've cost the Knicks dearly in additional luxury taxes, so passing on such a big financial commitment to a relatively unproven player was good business sense, it could be argued.

But now it seems that much maligned Knicks owner James Dolan and GM Glen Grunwald allowed Lin to go to Houston not so much out of fiscal prudence, but because Dolan's feelings were hurt.

Frank Isola of the NY Daily News published a column several hours before the deadline to match Lin's offer sheet before it expired, saying, "[The Knicks] were upset that he hired a publicist without their consent and were livid that the second-year point guard out of Harvard went back to the Rockets for more money."

According to Isola and his sources, Dolan not only felt "upset" and "livid," but also "deceived" and "betrayed." After Houston's initial offer sheet to Lin would have payed him $9.3 million in the third year of the deal, the Knicks promised to match the offer sheet.

Houston, whether on their own or at the prodding of Lin and his agent, upped their offer in the third year to $14.9 million.

And that's when Dolan became "livid." He decided to take his dolls and bags of cash and go home.

Dolan sounds more like a jilted boy at the junior prom than a longtime owner of a marquee NBA franchise.

Lin sought to get the most money he could in free agency, which is essentially what every player in the league tries to do. James Dolan considered this a betrayal and opted not to match the offer sheet.

Perhaps the case was that Lin wanted a change of scenery and preferred to leave New York for greener pastures and more minutes on another roster. In fact, that was not the case.

Jeremy Lin tweeted out this message of thanks to Dolan's franchise and the city that embraced him:

Much love and thankfulness to the Knicks and New York for your support this past year...easily the best year of my life #ForeverGrateful

— Jeremy Lin (@JLin7) July 18, 2012

But Dolan and the Knicks apparently felt that Lin should have been so grateful for the chance to play basketball in New York that he should have accepted whatever the Knicks offered him. Instead, the Knicks were beaten to the punch by Houston and never bothered to match the offer.

Lin confirmed on Twitter that he was "extremely excited and honored to be a Houston Rocket again!!" He was cut by Houston just seven months ago, so they are rectifying that mistake.

The day after officially becoming a Rocket, Lin tweeted a link to an article from SI.com by Pablo S. Torre, commenting, "My free agency in a nutshell."

The article outlines the respectful disappointment that Knicks GM Glen Grunwald communicated to Lin just prior to Tuesday's deadline to match the Rockets' offer sheet, saying "We wanted to keep you, but it couldn't work out."

Torres confirmed that while Lin "preferred New York," he's now "definitely relieved" to have his contract settled. And to have a big payday under his belt. 

That's all you need to know. He preferred to stay in New York, and Dolan let him go.

After being granted early Bird rights in arbitration, Lin's salary did not count against the salary cap. All that would have to be paid beyond his salary were the luxury taxes, and as all Knicks fans know, Dolan has plenty of cash to splash around.

He has his father Charles to thank for the Cablevision fortune at his disposal. And Dolan has previously squandered portions of that fortune on Eddy Curry, Stephon Marbury and Isiah Thomas, among others.

While he's not quite Mikhail Prokhorov, who has been stockpiling expensive talent for the Nets just across the East River, Dolan had more than enough resources to retain Lin.

Granted, Jeremy Lin is not worth a $15 million salary in any season. Not even close.

Lin is also not worth the $28 million luxury tax bill, as calculated by Ian Begley of ESPN New York with some help after first publishing from Larry Coon (who, I'm convinced, is the only person on the planet that actually understands the new CBA, as Begley originally estimated the total cost at $57 million).

Few players in the league would be worth that $43 million sum for one year. But it's not Lin's fault that the Knicks would have to pay those luxury taxes two years down the road. Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler are set to make over $61 million combined simultaneous to the third year of Lin's contract (Hoops Hype).

And that $43 million tab for Lin wouldn't come into play until the 2014-15 season, meaning the Knicks could either trade him before that to a team with cap space and get something in return, or cut Lin and use the stretch provision of the CBA to avoid a big hit all at once (CBS New York).

Instead, Jeremy Lin is a Rocket, and the Knicks will have Raymond Felton running the point again after a disappointing season in Portland (40.7 percent FG, 11.4 PTS, 6.5 AST, 2.5 REB, 1.3 STL, 2.8 TO).

They will also have 39-year-old Jason Kidd coming off the bench with no youngster to mentor.

On the basis of his 35-game season and a meager 25 starts, Jeremy Lin (44.6 percent FG, 14.6 PTS, 6.2 AST, 3.0 REB, 1.6 STL, 3.6 TO) seemed to be a more savvy and attractive option at the point for next season than Felton, regardless of the tax penalty. One is on the rise while the other is declining.

Regardless of Dolan's emotions and motivations for letting Lin go to Houston, all things considered, was it a prudent move?

Ian O'Connor of ESPN New York opened his July 18th column with this: "Jim Dolan just made one of the dumbest moves of his basketball life, which is saying a mouthful." Dolan was named the second worst owner in the NBA by SI.com just three years ago.

The Lin saga certainly won't help ameliorate that ranking. And neither will the 49 percent increase in the price of tickets for next season.

ESPN Radio's Robin Lundberg tweeted, "Letting Lin walk would be akin to striking oil and plugging the hole yourself." Well, the oil is now in Houston, which is appropriate, I suppose.

Despite any criticism of Lin's issues with turnovers and defense, he clearly displayed the high ceiling of his talent. A full offseason of practice and coaching could've further solidified his overall game. He was also a fan favorite in New York, an international sensation that transcended the sport itself and even a key motivator that ended that messy dispute between Dolan and Time Warner Cable.

Lin also set a few records over the course of his meteoric rise to stardom.

On Valentine's Day, four days after dropping 38 points on Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, Jeremy Lin bested a record held by Shaquille O'Neal. Lin's tiebreaking three-pointer in the waning seconds against the Toronto Raptors gave him 136 points in his first five starts, seven more points than Shaq and more than any player in NBA history.

ESPN termed it a "Lincomparable Debut."

John Bois of SB Nation probed another interesting stat from Lin's mercurial start. He is one of only 15 players in the last 25 seasons to have at least 20 points, seven assists and a steal in five consecutive games. That has nothing to do with the first five starts of a career. That stat is for any player in a five-game span at any point of the season.

While it is an unusual stat, it puts Lin in pretty good company along with Allen Iverson, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Gary Payton, Grant Hill, Tim Hardaway, Isiah Thomas, Kevin Johnson, LeBron James, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan.

That's not too shabby. And notice that Raymond Felton is not on that list.

Say what you will about Jeremy Lin and how bright his future may or may not be. He proved the potential of his talent, and James Dolan let this player walk away and got absolutely nothing in return.

Some have claimed that this is all part of a grand scheme to lure Chris Paul to Madison Square Garden. If so, Dolan and Grunwald had better have some rock solid inside information, because the last time the Knicks orchestrated their roster to lure an elite player, he took his talents to South Beach.

This was after an offseason in which the team said they would "absolutely" and "definitely" retain their popular point guard (ESPN and NY Post).

An online petition via Change.org to keep Lin in New York was signed by over 14,000 fans, but that fell on deaf ears.

Now, Jeremy Lin is a Houston Rocket, and the Knicks have not offered their fans an explanation for why that is. Seemingly, it wasn't because James Dolan didn't want to spend all that money on the contract and luxury taxes in 2014.

It was because of Dolan's ego.

It was because he felt "betrayed" by a respectful, God-fearing 23-year-old who was sleeping on a teammate's couch just six months ago.

Yet again, James Dolan has outdone himself.

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