|And the award for most interesting storyline in the NBA goes to...|
New York Knicks
The New York Knicks don’t care about money, and as much as people want to believe this was about money, let me tell you Dolan has more money than he will ever need. Also according to ESPN’s Larry Coon, there was a way out of the poison pill contract:
If worse comes to worst, another new rule can help the team out. The "stretch provision" allows a team to waive a player and extend his salary payments over twice the number of remaining seasons, plus one. So if Lin is waived with one season remaining on his contract, he would be paid his salary over three years.
Here's the important part -- teams also may elect to stretch a waived player's salary-cap hit over the same number of years. So if Lin proves to be a disaster over the next two seasons, the Knicks can waive him, stretch the payment of his $14.8 million salary over three years, and reduce his salary-cap amount to about $4.9 million in each season. This would reduce the team's tax bill significantly. If the Knicks are right at the tax line, a $4.9 million salary would translate to a $7.35 million tax bill. This is much more palatable.
Egos run this league, and the Knicks decided to try to win it all with Carmelo Anthony. Whether you like it or not, this team is going to go as far as Carmelo can take us. There are only maybe 10 players in the league that can be your best player and give you a shot at winning a championship. Melo is one of those players, and Jeremy Lin is not. Also the Knicks became hostages to Linsanity, and Woodson would have to start Jeremy Lin no matter how he was performing. Now the Knicks were able to get Raymond Felton at a bargain deal of $9 million over three years. Felton has never been the same since he left the New York Knicks; I remember being angry that they included him in a trade in the first place. Not only did Denver take Gallo and Wilson Chandler, they took the cute, cubby point guard that had started a budding friendship with our star power forward. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers between Felton vs Lin as the Knicks starter. Felton averaged 17.1 points, 9.0 assists, 3.3 turnovers, 3.6 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and a .423 field goal percentage over a 54 game period. Lin averaged 18.2 points, 7.7 assists, 4.7 turnovers, 3.7 rebounds, 2.0 steals, and a .445 field goal percentage over a 25 game period. Both players did well in the Mike D’Antoni system, so I will not put too much weight into that. The numbers do not lie -- Felton is the better value at 3 years $9 million versus what Lin got in 3 years $25 million. Also in the end it is not about value to the Knicks profit line but the value to the team's salary cap.
Lastly Felton’s defense is a huge improvement over Jeremy Lin’s defense. Jeremy Lin can be a deserving All Star, but his defense resembles that of Steve Nash, and that is never a good thing. My last argument of why the Knicks ended up making the right basketball move is that a team with three defensive liabilities will never make it far in the playoffs. The Knicks need to follow the Dallas Mavericks model and have 3 solid to great defenders on the court at all times. Chandler is a great defender, and Iman is more than solid, but even the two of them could not make up the lack of defense from Amare, Melo , and yes, Jeremy Lin. The Knicks may never win it all, but I do believe they are closer today with Felton as their starter than they were yesterday. The Knicks also will have more financial flexibility to add pieces to their team as limited as it will be. Unless Jeremy Lin becomes Steve Nash in his prime, this looks like the right move was made since money was not the real motivation.
Daryl Morey seems to be a hero in Houston, but I want to be clear in saying that if Morey was in Boston, New York, or Los Angeles he would have been fired a year or two ago. I get it, the guy is brilliant -- I am sure he is managing the team very well, and every year is profitable for Houston Rocket management. Moreyball (NBA’s version of Moneyball) can only take you so far. Most players in the NBA are overvalued, and every contender besides maybe the Spurs has overpaid at some point or another. With that being said, I believe the Rockets could easily turn things around if they get Dwight or Pau Gasol and one of these rookies turns into a stud scorer from the wing.
As a Knick fan, I think Morey personally wanted Lin back to rectify his mistake of cutting him in the first place. Daryl Morey is a man who prides himself in evaluating talent and even openly admitted his regret last season. I am sure when the Knicks came out saying they would match, Morey felt frustrated and thought he would go ahead and make it take much tougher on the Knicks. The time period of July 1st to July 11th is when teams can start talking to free agents but can't officially sign contracts. During this time period, it is expected that all verbal agreements and contracts remain as they are. It is more of a gentleman’s agreement; there are no rules that say you can’t change the term or retract the offer. I know the Toronto Raptors must wish they didn’t have to honor their verbal offer to Landry Fields of $20 million after missing out on Steve Nash, but that is neither here nor there. In the end, Morey may have changed the terms out of spite, since even up till yesterday night, Morey still thought the Knicks were going to match his offer of $25 million in guaranteed dollars.
Throughout this whole process, I felt the most disappointed in Jeremy Lin. He never made his intentions clear, and as much as people want to blame the Knicks for not making an offer to start, Jeremy never said he really wanted to return to NY in the first place. His actions actually seem to tell an entirely different story if it's true that he took the Knicks guarantee back to Houston in order to get $5 million more in guarantee money. So the question I have here is this: what was Jeremy Lin’s motivation to go back to the table with the Houston Rockets? Was it because he was greedy and actually thought that Marc Stein tweet about the Knicks matching anything up to $1 billion was true? Or maybe the more likely scenario is that Jeremy Lin was worried that the Knicks would match and needed to get an offer that would make going to Houston possible. If this is the case, I wonder why Jeremy Lin was so desperate to leave the city that made him and gave him the opportunity of a life time. So many questions flood my mind when I think about this. Did Melo and Lin really not get along? Was there too much jealousy in the locker room over Linsanity? Was Lin afraid of the pressure and constant press of New York City? Or is Lin just like most basketball players in the NBA seeking more money and more shots? Only Jeremy Lin really knows, so I will leave it at that.
If it was really for more money, then this whole situation really is "Linsatiate." In that case, Jeremy Lin gambled against Dolan and lost. My feeling is that greed wasn’t the main motivation. Jeremy Lin is already the most sought-after athlete for endorsing products to sell to the most affluent group in the USA (Asian Americans). He could have easily made millions more by staying in New York City. I think it comes down to Jeremy Lin genuinely wanting to leave the bright lights of New York City. As a current resident of NYC where I work and live (just moved into the city this month), I will agree that the Big Apple can be quite overwhelming at times. This is a city of comparison, pressure, and status. The media and residents aren’t always logical in their comments, and many seem to have an attitude of superiority. That being said I am sure teammate chemistry, Landry Fields leaving, and limited minutes and shots to develop his game all played a part.
|Take a bow -- last year was an amazing show!|
What makes me feel the saddest is that I have come to the conclusion that Jeremy Lin wanted out of the New York Circus, I mean, the New York Knicks. He decided to leave, so I have no right to be upset at the mad king James Dolan or at the wise GM Daryl Morey. This is what Jeremy Lin wanted, and doesn’t every man deserve that choice to choose where they want to work? I will always be thankful for what Jeremy Lin has given us over the years. He has given us the most exciting two weeks in sports, an Asian American to rally behind, and hope that anything and everything is possible through God. Jeremy Lin, you are still the Great Asian American Hope and always will be.
Photos courtesy of Debby Wong/US Presswire, Getty Images, and NY Daily News.