Jeremy Lin won't be getting off the bench to practice with Team USA. (Getty Images)
The first day that Jeremy Lin could sign a new contract to play for an NBA team would be the final day of the 2012 USA Basketball Men's Select Team's stint working out and scrimmaging with the U.S. men's national basketball team in advance of its trip to London to compete for a gold medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics. With his future up in the air and without a deal in place, Lin has elected to withdraw from the select team, according to The Associated Press.
[ Photos: NBA pros who withdrew from Olympic consideration ]
It's important to note that, unlike Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who withdrew from consideration for the senior national team due to injury last week, Lin's exit will have no bearing on the team that takes the floor in London. The select team is the group of young players chosen by USA Basketball to work out with the senior national team to help them prepare for international competition; they are not in the running for spots on this year's national squad. The 2012 select team includes point guards Kyrie Irving, John Wall and Jrue Holiday, swingmen DeMar DeRozan, Paul George, Gordon Hayward, Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson, and frontcourt players DeJuan Blair, DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors, Taj Gibson and Lance Thomas.
Lin is not the first player to withdraw from the 2012 select team. Fellow restricted free agent Ryan Anderson pulled out last month, and was replaced by another restricted free agent, Greg Stiemsma ... who also pulled out Monday.
When Lin was named to the select team on May 21, the 23-year-old point guard was still recuperating from early April surgery to repair the torn meniscus in his left knee. The injury derailed his breakout season with the New York Knicks, which saw him go from end-of-the-bench afterthought to NBA starter, global sensation and one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World" by Time magazine.
A six-week post-surgery rehab schedule would keep Lin out until at least the second round of the NBA playoffs, but the thinking was that by the second week of July, he'd be back to full strength, working out and ready to join the select squad that would scrimmage with the Olympic team to help them get ready for London. Unfortunately, the vagaries of labor negotiations and the NBA calendar have rendered it all but impossible for Lin to get his contract situation and next move in free agency sorted out in time to hit the workouts in Vegas.
A labor arbitration case that determined how much Lin (and other waived players) could make in free agency remained unsettled until the eve of free agency. The open bidding for players' services began just five days before the scheduled July 6 start of the U.S. team's camp. The Knicks did not immediately look to lock Lin up and reportedly refuse to give up the ghost of bringing in former Phoenix Suns point guard (and newly minted Canada Basketball boss) Steve Nash. Lin has several other suitors to consider, but because he is a restricted free agent, the Knicks have the right to match any offer he receives once contracts can legally be signed, a period that begins July 11, which leaves everything unsettled for two more weeks.
Some fans might take a dim view of Lin's decision to skip the select team scrimmages to hammer out his new deal — and, of course, to eliminate the possibility of re-injuring surgically repaired knee cartilage or suffering any other setbacks that could limit his leverage and earning potential before having a deal signed — because, technically, the situation sees Lin choosing personal business interests over the opportunity to represent his country.
Members of the select team may not appear in this summer's Games, but they are part of the USA Basketball pipeline — Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, LaMarcus Aldridge and Andre Iguodala, among others, began on the select team before later becoming national team finalists. Participating in and having a strong showing at these pre-London workouts would likely improve Lin's chances of remaining in consideration for a slot on future editions of Team USA; surely that's got to count for something.
Plus, the optics seem off — Jeremy Lin, the Taiwanese American star whose blazing trip across the sky was so widely lauded back in February as a grand example of someone who through hard work, discipline and fortitude grabbed the brass ring and seized the American dream, declines the opportunity to do his part for the gold effort. That will probably strike some folks a bit odd.
Stepping back from that über-patriotic argument, though, it's very hard to denigrate Lin for deciding to steer clear of the select team while his situation remains unsettled. Six months ago, Jeremy Lin was asking opponents to say a prayer that he wouldn't get cut from the Knicks roster. Now, he has a chance to ink a deal that will earn him tens of millions of dollars, an opportunity he likely never dreamed he'd see. If someone you loved was thinking of jeopardizing that kind of opportunity to go scrimmage for a few days, you'd slap him/her upside the head; if you were considering it, you'd hope someone you love would return the favor. The timing is unfortunate, but Lin has to seize this moment; depending on how the next several years of his life and career go, he may never see another like it again.
Lin will meet Wednesday with the Houston Rockets to discuss a possible contract, as ESPN.com's Chris Broussard reported. Houston waived Lin back in December before the beginning of the lockout-shortened 2011-12 NBA season because the team was loaded at lead guard and needed to make room to import center Samuel Dalembert, whom the team recently traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. Now, just over six months later, the Rockets are expected to offer Lin "a deal similar to the contract [Goran] Dragic turned down," according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. The parameters of that contract remain unclear, but Dragic is said to be seeking at least $10 million per year in salary, and could reportedly receive an offer in the $8 million to $9 million range from his former team, the Phoenix Suns.
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