Jim Dolan just made his biggest mistake ever as owner of the New York Knicks, which is pretty telling. Choosing not to re-sign Jeremy Lin ranks above hiring the walking punchline known as Isiah Thomas and subjecting New York to the coaching tactics of the much maligned Larry Brown. One can only wonder what was going through Dolan’s mind as he failed to re-sign his 23-year-old point guard who averaged 18 points and eight assists per game. While many boast that Houston’s offer sheet was ‘ridiculous’, the Knicks failed to make an initial attempt to re-sign Lin. This Linsane circus could have been avoided at the start of free agency. Instead, the Knicks will rue in their lack of persistence to get a deal done.
Instead of locking him up on July 1st, the Knicks reached out to a pair of 38+ year old point guards (Steve Nash and Jason Kidd) while working out a trade for the human blimp known as Raymond Felton. Had the Knicks made an initial competitive offer, Houston may have turned their attention to re-signing their own point guard, Goran Dragic. Instead, the Knicks told Lin to hit the market and see what he could get. In essence, the Knicks fed themselves a ‘poison pill’ by making this decision. To make matters even worse, the Knicks will simply let Lin go to Houston without receiving any sort of compensation. Talk about shafting a guy that single handedly ended the ugly, bitter Cablevision-MSG standoff last winter.
While it’s easy to argue that Lin’s small sample size of games played doesn’t warrant a hefty contract, Lin has demonstrated that he has star qualities. Lin’s 38 point performance against Kobe’s Lakers was masterful. Lin’s late game heroics against the Toronto Raptors demonstrated poise and leadership. Those qualities obviously don’t matter to Dolan’s Knicks. As a 23-year-old point guard, Lin’s poise and statistics put his contemporaries (Kidd and Nash included) to shame.
The Knicks have never been shy to spend money, so it’s baffling that they would let one year (Lin’s $14 million 2013-2014 salary) stand in their way. Nevermind the luxury tax predicament–things frequently change in the NBA. One of the Knicks’ larger, expiring contracts (looking at you, Amare) could be moved to free room. If Joe Johnson’s albatross, three-year contract can be moved, one team will definitely take one year of Amare Stoudemire on. However, the Knicks won’t have to make that decision now as they let their floor general go to Houston.
While we are on the subject of Joe Johnson, Nets owner, Mikhail Prokhorov doesn’t seem too worried about luxury tax or salary cap hits. Prokorov invested nearly a $300 million of long-term commitments in an effort to take over New York basketball. On paper, the Nets appear to be the superior team and Prokhorov will keep encouraging to the Knicks to let their star players go.
At the end of the day, all roads in the Eastern Conference lead through Miami. By simply letting Lin leave, the Knicks have taken a giant step backwards. Lin did struggle against the Heat last season, but he only had one chance to play them. The prospect of Felton engineering the Knick offense surely doesn’t scare LeBron James or Dwayne Wade.
Jeremy Lin had something that the rest of the Knicks simply don’t have–the ‘It Factor’. Lin’s desire to win and be successful was second to none. Here’s to hoping Houston can enjoy a player that gave New York basketball fans hope for the first time in over a decade.