It was surreal. It was possibly the story of the year. It was ‘Linsanity’. The kid nobody gave a chance, undrafted and twice cut, took Broadway by storm ,creating a buzz around Knicks basketball that has been absent for far too long.
But now its decision time for the Knicks. Lin has signed a 3-year, $25. 1 million offer sheet with Houston, giving New York till Tuesday 11:59 pm to match that offer and retain him.
It looks increasingly like they won’t and if that’s the case, it will be another wrong move by Knicks management in a decade plagued by them.
Instead the Knicks have acquired 28-year-old Raymond Felton in a sign-and-trade, giving him a 3 year, $10 million deal.
Seriously Raymond Felton? This is New York City, the mecca of basketball and the biggest media market in the US, if not the world, and you want Raymond Felton as your starting point guard?
Felton averaged a career low 11.4 ppg last season and is a career 41.2% shooter from the field. Portland fans spent last season closing their eyes every time he touched the ball, afraid of what he’d do. Hey New York, how does it feel to take Portland’s leftovers?
So what Jeremy Lin played only 35 games, starting 25 of those, for New York. Those 25 games were probably the most anyone has cared about the Knicks in the last decade. Lin made the Knicks relevant. Fans everywhere were tuning into to watch ‘Linsanity’. Even people who didn’t watch the NBA, wanted to see the young phenom. He was a star in a city built for stars.
Lin’s run was no fluke. You can’t fake those aggressive drives to the rim and the vision behind those chris-paul-like lobs to Tyson Chandler. You can’t fake that swagger and confidence that are necessary to surviving in the NBA. And you can’t fake an 18.2 ppg and 7.7 apg average over 25 starts.
The reality is that the Knicks had a .600 win percentage in Lin’s 25 starts. Had Lin started all 66 games, their win percentage would have been good for a division title, the number four seed in the East over Boston, and home court advantage in the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
Sure Lin had his problems with turnovers but most point guards do early on in their career. With great players like Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, Jason Kidd, and Tyson Chandler around him, Lin’s game will only get better. The 23-year-old is on the rise. And on top of it all, his marketability is off-the-charts.
The Knicks’ biggest worry of resigning Lin is the $75 million they will have committed to four players in Lin, Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler, in 2014-15. Along with other players on the roster, even if they were all at the veteran’s minimum, the Knicks would surely warrant tens of millions of dollars in luxury tax penalties. Let’s be real, this is New York and they’ll make that money back.
But what if they don’t want to pay that extra money in 2014-15? They’ll have the expiring contracts of Stoudemire, Chandler, Anthony, and Lin. In a league where expiring contracts are valuable trade assets, the Knicks should be able to trade away at least one of those expiring contracts and get themselves close to the salary cap limit, if not under it.
The Knicks want to win now and are built to do it with a core of Anthony, Stoudemire, and Chandler. Carmelo’s in his prime, Stoudemire’s on the decline, and Chandler has never had much of an offensive game.. The Knicks need another star to win. They need Lin. If they decide to stick with Felton, then they’re fine with mediocrity, a number five or six seed in the East every year, and annual first round exits.
The clock’s not just ticking on Tuesday’s 11:59 pm deadline to match Lin’s offer, but also on the Knicks chances to stay relevant.