Everybody is a Linner!
Last night the New York Knicks passed on matching the offer the Houston Rockets gave Jeremy Lin, allowing the restricted free agent to sign with the Houston Rockets for 3 years, $25.1 million. Many people are now analyzing who the big loser in this transaction really is. Are the Knicks foolish to let a 23 year old skilled PG, who is also a marketing sensation, leave town and get nothing in return? Are the Houston Rockets paying too much for an unproven, flash in the pan PG who proved that he wasn’t tough enough to play in the postseason after he stated he was “85 percent healthy”? Did Jeremy Lin make a dumb choice leaving New York City, where he could own the town and potentially be one of the most influential individuals in league history? In my opinion, the answer to all of these questions is a resounding NO! I think this is one of the rare moves in the NBA in which all parties involved can be viewed as winners, or in this case “linners”.
The New York Knicks: As much as the Knicks enjoyed the magical season that Jeremy Lin took them on last season, they couldn’t possible pay what the Rockets offered. If the Knicks matched the offer, the third year of the contract would have paid Lin $14.8 million, but the real cost would be the Knicks paying an additional $43 million in luxury tax because they would be well over the salary cap. If you add the $10.3 million that Lin would cost the Knicks in his first two years of the deal, Lin would cost the Knicks a total of $68.1 million dollars! I mean Lin showed the potential last year to be a very good PG, but he also showed that he might only be mediocre. I don’t think that anyone can say for sure they know how high his ceiling actually is. However, for the Knicks to risk $70 million on the chance that he is as great as he was for a small stretch last year is impossible. The Knicks brought in both Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton to handle the PG duties, which aren’t glamorous moves but they are safe moves (assuming Kidd stays off the road). Kidd will play smart and give the Knicks solid play, while Felton played the best ball of his career as a Knick in 2010, and New York is hopeful he can pick up where he left off, prior to getting fat and lethargic in Portland this past season. Neither Kidd nor Felton have as much upside as Lin as this point in their careers, but neither have as much downside either. If the Knicks matched the offer and Lin showed he was more of the D League player than the Superstar he showed he might be, it would have been a disaster for a team that could not afford giving away another irresponsible contract.
The Houston Rockets: Even though the Knicks were smart to pass on Lin, the Rockets are also winners in this negotiation. First of all, Lin is most likely a solid PG. He was turnover prone, played minimal defense and can’t really go to his right hand. However, he showed really good court vision, the ability to drive the lane, skill playing the pick and roll and the courage to take and his a big shot. He’s also 23 years old and a smart kid who will look to improve his flaws. Is he the best PG in the league? No. Is he the worse? I don’t think so. The Houston Rockets lost both their current PGs, Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry in the offseason. There hasn’t been much for Rocket fans to be excited about since the mid 90’s, with the exception of a few Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady playoff runs. The Rockets are well under the salary cap, so Lin’s deal will cost them $43 million dollars then the Knicks, making it really just a $25.1 million dollar deal. If the Knicks weren’t going to get hit with the luxury tax, I think we all believe that they should give Lin the $25 million for the chance that he does pan out to be legit. However, the Knicks don’t have the space for him that Houston does. The Rockets are also making a push for Dwight Howard, and although nobody thinks Howard and Lin would team up to win a title for Houston next year, it would make the Rockets a hell of a lot more relevant than they have been in a long time. Lin will cost the Rockets a little more than 8 million spread out over the three years, and if they are actually inheriting the player who averaged 14.6 points and 6.2 assists in 35 games with the Knicks, they will be satisfied.
Jeremy Lin: Jeremy Lin is making the correct decision by going to Houston. He played his best ball last season in Mike D’Antoni’s PG friendly, run and gun system. We all know D’Antoni resigned, Mike Woodson took over and the Knicks offense became a lot more stagnant and isolation based. Though Lin showed he could still play effectively in Woodson’s offense, it was not conducive to his style of play. People are saying that Lin should have stayed in New York, as being in a big city will help his worth in marketing value. However, the NBA is such a global league that players can be stars in the smallest of markets (Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett in Minnesota). Lin has already made himself internationally known and will continue to be a prime candidate for many promo and marketing opportunities. Besides, it’s not as if Houston is a small town in the middle of nowhere. In Houston, Lin will have the opportunity to make the Rockets his team, something that never would have occurred on the STAT and Melo Knicks. Jeremy Lin made $762,195 last season and was well known for the time he spent sleeping on couches. Now, he has the opportunity to turn 35 games into $25.1 million Houston Rocket dollars. If that is not the epitome of the American Dream, I don’t know what is. For the players who have come out and questioned Lin’s contract, including Carmelo calling is “ridiculous”, you all need to stop counting and worrying about other people’s money. Lin took advantage of a business opportunity, and will clearly profit off an aggressive investment by the Houston Rockets. Whether the Rockets get value in their purchase will be determined, but for anyone to knock Jeremy Lin for making the business moves he has in the past few weeks is fascinatingly stupid. Plus, if it turns out he’s really not that good he won’t have to be criticized and ripped apart by the New York media for the next three years, but he’ll still be laughing and smiling every time he looks at his bank account.