Jeremy Lin, following a workout at Madison Square Garden. (Getty Images)
It's official. The New York Knicks sent out an email even before the midnight deadline between Tuesday and Wednesday had passed confirming as much. The Knicks, years after turning their payroll into a pumpkin, have decided to decline to match the Houston Rockets' three-year and $25.1 million offer sheet for restricted free agent Jeremy Lin. Lin is a Rocket, and the Knicks will have an unending series of questions to ask even if the brief wave of 'Linsanity' abates and Jeremy turns into just another solid point guard down in Texas.
The New York Times' Howard Beck was the first to alert us, on Tuesday, of New York's end-all thinking. As Beck's scoop went up on the Times' website, Knicks owner James Dolan and team coach Mike Woodson could be seen at the Las Vegas Summer League, literally and figuratively miles away from considering bringing the point guard back. Famously, the third year of Lin's deal with the Rockets has a balloon payment that nearly triples the per-year earnings of its first two years, and would have conceivably cost New York nearly $40 million in total for one year of 2014-15 play from a still-untested point guard.
Because, as we wrote on Monday, none of the fulminations behind the finances mattered much because of the team's desperate situation, with the scrambling Knicks relying on Raymond Felton and an aging Jason Kidd as the championship window closes in New York, months and years after spending significant amounts of cash on players without caring about the luxury tax. The Knicks badly need a starting quality point guard, Felton and Kidd are barely that, and this was a poor time to take a stand on taking chances with the team's finances. Or to act haughty, because Lin was courted by other teams.
Conceivably, because as the Times' Nate Silver pointed out, New York may not have been able to afford to not match the offer for the point guard, even if he didn't pan out to the near-All-Star level that he played at last February. Lin would have made the team and the team's owners so much money from so many disparate areas that the final year of that contract would have been a small price to pay. Even with the luxury tax going great guns.
Conceivably, because as ESPN cap guru Larry Coon pointed out (as relayed in the free portion of ESPN's website by Beckley Mason), the Knicks actually wouldn't have had to take that massive payroll hit should Lin proceeded to fail them, because waiving Jeremy before that third year of the deal Houston signed him to could have saved them a significant amount of money in both salary cap and payroll terms under the NBA's new "stretch provision." A provision created seemingly and specifically for a team as ridiculous as the New York Knicks.
Jeremy Lin is no sure thing, and those terms (as put together by Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey) are pretty ridiculous. But apparently it had whittled down to an unfortunate mix of hurt feelings by New York ownership (who, you'll recall, encouraged Lin to go find his market value before they deigned to offer him a contract, only to be surprised by the strategic nature of Houston's offer), and an odd batch of calculated and strangely timed parsimony from the Knicks. Fatty's watching what he eats, now.
There was still time -- between the initial shock behind the offer, the rumors of New York's intentions, and the Times' report late in the afternoon on Tuesday -- for the Knicks to take a deep breath and match the offer for the point guard that could potentially put them over the top. And yet, as it has been proven for years during his stewardship of the team, it appears as if the lone thing that James Dolan is an unmitigated expert at is stubbornness.
And it may have cost his team a chance at something special.
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