Lights went out on Linsanity

Jeremy Lin has been one of the NBA’s biggest stories so far this year. He put together an amazing February run with the New York Knicks: a three week period where he played big-time basketball and acted as the Knicks ‘saviour’ during a time where they were injury prone, desperate for wins and in need of a steady point guard. Lin provided all that and more.

He was undrafted out of the University of Harvard, he signed a free agent deal with the Golden State Warriors in 2010 and played only a handful of games.

He never really made an impact or impressed the ownership there and was let go following his second season with the franchise. That offseason he signed with the Houston Rockets, but was let go after the first month of the season because of an impressive Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic playing their positions well.

So, what was next for Lin? He had given three years of his hard-earned Harvard degree to playing professionally and did not have much to show for it. What was he to do now? Well, in an under-the-radar deal, he signed a small contract with the New York Knicks as his last stand.

The Knicks had point guard issues, to say the least. They boasted a terrific front court in star Carmelo Anthony, the high-scoring Amar’e Stoudemire and championship defender Tyson Chandler.

But a front court finishes plays, the Knicks had no back court to start them. Little-known Toney Douglas entered the year as the starter, the Knicks signed a diminished veteran in Mike Bibby, they had a questionable Baron Davis who had just come off injury and last but not least, Lin.

So, the season wore on, Davis was injured again, Bibby proved to be a horribly useless acquisition and things were left to Douglas, who never played well. Then, as though things couldn’t get any worse, Anthony went down with hamstring issues.

The fans were sunk, the players and coaches were too but their salaries enabled them to fake smile through the dismal period they were enduring. Head coach Mike D’antoni turned to fourth string point guard Lin and it turned out to be the single greatest coaching move D’antoni had ever conjured.

What followed was ‘Linsanity’: Lin came off the bench after a less-than-stellar Douglas start against the New Jersey Nets and took over. He notched 25 points, five rebounds and seven assists while being matched up against all-star point guard Deron Williams.

It had started, Lin rolled off superb performance after superb performance: 28 points, eight assists against the Jazz, 23 points and 10 assists matched up against the speedy John Wall, a memorable 38 points and seven assist outburst against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The ‘Linsation’ continued, knocking off game after game, scoring and running the New York offense to a tee and catapulting himself into stardom. He began to carry the Knicks for the next 35 games, making 26 starts, and averaged 18.5 points and 7.6 assists during his 26 games as an everyday player.

However, the Linsanity was short-circuited, Lin went down with a knee injury after his 26th start and after further evaluation it was evident he would need surgery. It kept him out for the remainder of the year (and the playoffs) and Linsanity 
was a memory.

Thus, sparked the crazy summer that is 2012. Lin, 24 next month, became a restricted free agent at the conclusion of the season and, as any team would, he was conventionally let loose to find another offer. The thinking was that the Knicks would match any offer sheet signed by their star free agent…at least it was at first.

Lin received a three-year offer from the Houston Rockets, who have desperately been searching for a star to spark some buzz throughout the city. The offer was a three-year, $25 million, one that guaranteed Lin $5 million through year one, and in year two, then ballooned to $15 million in his third year.

This was the ‘poison pill’ for the Knicks front office, as they were already carrying Carmelo Anthony’s, Amar’e Stoudmire’s and Tyson Chandler’s contracts that are due $60 million in three years. All in all, this made for an extremely heavy luxury tax that would harshly limit the Knicks in free agent spending for the years to come.

So, while the Knicks and the rest of the NBA deliberated on whether or not Houston’s offer should be matched, the Knicks made a savvy, veteran move. In a sudden sign-and-trade with Portland, point guard Raymond Felton was acquired by the Knicks, they had a back-up in case they decided not to match Lin’s offer.

The decision has been discussed, analysed, tweaked and discussed some more, but it seems apparent as to what the Knicks are going to do. Jeremy Lin’s offer won’t be matched, the Knicks will move on with Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton (who are very good alternatives) running the point guard position for the Knicks in the 2012-13 season.

The move is smart, in ways that may be blind to the public eye. Yes, Lin was a media frenzy, merchandise flew off the shelves and his gaining popularity around the world would do no less than spark sales in one of the United States’ leading markets.

But, there are other variables to consider. He was going to be expensive. How thorough is a 26 game window? He played well, but can he sustain that over an 82-game schedule? The Knicks don’t have all their championship pieces in place and matching Lin’s offer would only constrain them when trying to find other pieces to fit the mix.

Letting Lin go is, in the long run, a smart business move. The Knick front office understood this and executed a well thought out decision that will, at least hopefully, benefit the franchise in the long-haul.

Letting Lin go is, in the long run, a smart businss move. The Knicks front office understood this, and executed a well thought out decision.