When Jeremy Lin went full-fledged "Linsanity" last season for the New York Knicks, fans across the NBA wondered how in the world he went undrafted out of Harvard and endured two stints in the D-League only to be cut several times before landing in a starring role at Madison Square Garden. While his 25-game sample size was small, Lin showed a dynamic ability to attack the paint and consistency in scoring in big moments, while also facilitating Amar'e Stoudemire when Carmelo Anthony was still hurt.
Fast forward just a few months and all indications suggest that the 23-year-old point guard is headed to Houston. When the Rockets signed Lin to a three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet back-loaded to the tune of $14.9 million in the final year, GM Daryl Morey made it extremely difficult for Glen Grunwald and James Dolan to rationalize matching. Doing so would represent $75 million tied up to Anthony, Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Lin, just in 2014-15 alone. It would also mean the Knicks would skyrocket well over the NBA's new luxury tax -- which is no longer a straight 1-1 ratio on the dollar -- and potentially go $40 million over the salary cap in that season alone.
The other element to consider is that New York has now brought in a quality veteran lead guard in Raymond Felton along with the elderly but still effective Jason Kidd. Just two years ago, Felton excelled in 54 games for the Knicks under push-happy head coach Mike D'Antoni, and while expecting the same All-Star type play from Felton is unrealistic, he's not going to hurt you either. There is also Iman Shumpert, who finished third in last season's Rookie of the Year balloting while providing superb defense and solid point guard skills. Shumpert -- the 17th pick in the 2011 draft -- will return sometime in January or February from the torn ACL he suffered against Miami in the playoffs and may very well become a better long-term player than Lin.
The bottom line in this Jeremy Lin saga is, well, just that: the bottom line. Lin had a sensational run at the Garden, and the original four-year deal that initial reports had the Rockets offering him would have been reasonable for the Knicks to match at $28 million. However, let us remember that this is a franchise which hasn't won a playoff series in over a decade. This is also a franchise that awarded robust contracts to league casualties like Eddy Curry, Jerome James and Stephon Marbury. In other words, handing out these type of dollars to a mostly unproven point guard with a shaky jumper and propensity to turn the ball over not only represents a huge risk, but also drastically handicaps New York financially for the next three seasons. The clock is ticking; Grunwald and Dolan have until midnight Tuesday to match Houston.
The question now remains: Is this a new era in New York basketball, or is this the same old Knicks?
We will know soon enough.
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