Jeremy Lin is no longer a New York Knick. Say it loud and it sounds like a funeral dirge. Jeremy Lin is no longer a Knick. Jeremy Lin is no longer a Knick.
How could it be?
Last year, Lin almost single-handedly brought the Knicks back from the dead. The Knicks had gone 8-15 on the season and had lost 11 of their last 13 games when coach Mike D'Antoni, out of desperation, decided to give Lin a shot. Lin responded by lighting up Madison Square Garden with five games in a row in which he scored 20 points or more, and one in which he scored 38 against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Knicks went undefeated for seven games, and each week Lin would do something else that would stir up excitement, not only in New York, but around the world.
Before the All-Star game, the Knicks had amassed a record of 9-3 thanks to Lin.
For three weeks, New York came alive as it has not done for years, and as a result the New York Knicks raised their ticket prices, according to Forbes, an average of 27 percent. Not only the Knicks, but other teams that the Knicks played raised their prices on the nights they played the Knicks. The media was buzzing about Lin. He was one of the only Asian Americans to excel in the NBA, a wholesome, Christian guy, who was humble to a fault. By the end of his run, his number 17 jersey became the NBA's bestselling jersey. He was Mr. New York.
But last week, James Dolan, owner of the New York Knicks, decided not to match the offer made to Lin by the Houston Rockets, and Lin is gone, along with the dreams of millions of fans. Why would Dolan let such a player go? That is the question I keep asking myself.
The answer, from my perspective as a psychoanalyst, has to do not with Linsanity, but with Dolansanity. Throughout the weeks leading up to deadline for matching Houston's offer, the Knicks kept insisting they would match the offer and retain Lin. Then, when Houston sweetened the pot by offering Lin a three-year, $25-million offer, back-loading their offer sheet with a $15 million salary in the third season of the deal, the Knicks balked. The Knicks complained that if they matched Houston's offer, they would face a huge luxury tax in the 2014-15 season of between $30 to $40 million, because of other big contracts on their books.
So, publicly, the Knicks were saying the reason for letting Lin go was financial. But a back story appeared a day or so later in the New York Daily News. Frank Isola reported that Jim Dolan was upset with Lin: "The decision was both financial and emotional since Garden chairman James Dolan was upset over Lin restructuring his deal with Houston last week to include a third year salary of $14.9 million. Dolan, according to sources, felt he was deceived by the 23-year-old Lin."
The report went on to say that Dolan and his staff "were upset that he [Lin] hired a publicist without their consent and were livid that the second-year point guard out of Harvard went back to the Rockets for more money." In other words, Lin was getting too big for his britches.
Dolan, who was once proclaimed by a fan vote on Sports Illustrated the worst owner in the NBA, apparently saw deceit and chicanery in Lin's attempt to earn as much money as possible. If, as Isola claimed, Dolan and his staff were livid at Lin, such an intense emotional reaction suggests paranoid thinking. Dolan's stubborn refusal to resign Lin and thus kick him out of Madison Garden may be seen as revenge against an uppity son who had betrayed his father.
People who suffer from paranoia always see themselves as a victim in every situation. Even when they are abusing others, they continue to rationalize their abuse by blaming it on the people they are abusing. "I'm doing this to them because they did it to me," they seem to say. The paranoid personality does not handle problems in a calm and reasonable way. Instead, such a person tends to be irrational, looking for reasons to back up their baseless suspiciousness about the motives of others.
There was nothing wrong with Lin hiring a publicist or seeking to make as much money as he could. But in Dolan's paranoid mind, apparently Lin was committing high treason. It may be that Dolan saw himself as the beneficent father-figure who had plucked young Lin from obscurity and given him the chance to shine in the NBA. To Dolan, it wasn't Lin who had saved the Knicks, revived a dying franchise and allowed it to raise ticket prices 27 percent; rather, it was Father Dolan who had saved Lin. And what did Lin do? He went out and got his contract offer with the Rockets back-loaded to make poor Dolan dig deep into his tailored pockets to keep him.
And so Lin is gone, along with Linsanity. And people all over New York and all over the world are shaking their collective heads. The young Asian-American who had people singing in the stands of Madison Square Garden will soon become a distant memory.
Jeremy Lin is no longer a Knick. Jeremy is no longer a Knick. If you say it enough times you will begin to believe it.
But you will never be able to wrap your mind around the paranoid psyche of Jim Dolan.
Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D. is a licensed psychoanalyst, professor of psychology and author of 20 books. He is also an avid sports fan.