The Philadelphia 76ers and the rest of the Atlantic Division feared Jeremy Lin and his "Linsanity" for several weeks. Back in February and March, Sixers fans like myself feared that Lin would lead the New York Knicks to the top of the Atlantic and knock Philadelphia from first place. Unfortunately, the Boston Celtics did that instead, while Lin's rise came to an end faster than expected due to injuries - and now his time in New York is about over as well.
The Knicks are now ready to let Lin join the Houston Rockets, as matching their three-year, $25 million offer would be too costly. Unless they have some creative bookkeeping, it appears they will let the midnight deadline on July 16 come and go - and let their newest sensation leave after only several weeks of firing up Manhattan.
With former Knick Raymond Felton coming back to join aging - and recently arrested - Jason Kidd at point guard, New York's point guard situation is still uncertain. It is hard to say right now if they've really upgraded from Lin, although the Knicks need someone to support Anthony and Stoudemire.
However, Lin's actual play was slightly less important than the fact that he made the Knicks relevant for the first time since the 1999 NBA Finals. This is why everyone thought the Knicks would match whatever the Rockets offered, at least until Houston changed its offer.
New York needed his star power to help hide that it remains a middle of the pack team at best - and one that was at the bottom of the pack not long ago. But this appears to have backfired on the Knicks, as Lin got so big that the Rockets are willing to overpay even more as a result. And since they are already overhauling everything for the chance to get Dwight Howard as well, they can actually afford to overpay Lin.
With the Knicks' payroll already handcuffed to Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler's massive salaries, even "Linsanity" may not be worth an average of eight million in each of the next three years. Yet while New York is being fiscally responsible for one of the few times in owner James Dolan's tenure, it means the Knicks have to rise and fall with their performance on the court - which is a riskier situation.
The Knicks couldn't get a massive free agent in the last few years, are still dealing with the effects of trading so much to get Anthony, and now have to rely on an ex-Knick and a late 30's Hall-of-Famer for their point guard success. Plus the harsh reality is that this remains a franchise with just one postseason victory since 1999 - two lockout shortened seasons ago.
When Lin exploded, he made the Knicks look like they could do anything and overtake anyone, including the Sixers and Celtics - if not the Miami Heat. But with 'Linsanity" off to Houston, New York has one less thing to hide its mediocrity behind now.
As such, it makes it sillier that the Sixers and most of the East feared the Knicks and Lin so much in those heavily hyped weeks. Of course, the West and the Southwest Division likely won't be as afraid when he joins the Rockets - especially if they can't get Howard to join him next.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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