Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Did Jeremy Lin's popularity become a threat to the Knicks?

Can't get used to this
So it's official: JLin17 is going to be a Rocket.

Why did this happen? Some may argue that the Knicks were trying to be fiscally responsible. But come on, this is the Knicks we're talking about. Plus, according to Nate Silver — that guy who can tell the future by looking at 2 sets of numbers — Lin made $600 million for the Knicks last year.

So Dolan's trying to convince us that using up to $40 million of those profits to pay for the luxury tax three years from now was just too rich for his blood? And this is not even considering the Stretch Provision that would've greatly lessened the cap hit on the Knicks should they be forced to waive Lin due to his suckiness.

Come on now.

Or maybe Lin's still unproven? Perhaps, but he did play around 35 games at the NBA level, excelling in many of them. Rookies get huge contracts based on one good NCAA tournament that uses different rules and court measurements from the professional game. Remember, this is a guy who had the best start EVER to an NBA career in history. Surely, a guy like that is worth $5 million for a couple of years, and maybe $15 million for one year (which would be a movable expiring contract anyway).

Something doesn't seem right.

What could be the real reason? To me, it's clear that Jeremy Lin became too popular for the Knicks, at least for the current Knicks establishment. Think about it. People loved Lin because he was a repudiation of everything that the James Dolan Knicks stood for.

Yes, Melo was the one who urged D'Antoni to start Lin in the first place, but he never could've predicted Linsanity and the consequent intensifying of anti-Melo sentiment in New York. And yes, the Knicks management was initially gaga over the team's sudden success, but it never could've imagined that Lin, and not the team, would become a global sensation.

James Dolan: The man who's going
to pray every night that Lin
never ever becomes a star
Remember how Melo said that Lin's contract was "ridiculous", while J.R. Smith said that having Lin back could cause locker room problems next year? These are not the words that a happy and unified team makes in public. Melo and Smith are free to think whatever they want, but by airing their grievances in public, they were trying to poison the well. If you were Jeremy Lin, could you imagine returning to the Knicks when you knew that your teammates felt like that? 

To be fair, I can understand Melo's perspective. If he compares himself to how his peers — namely, LeBron and Wade and Bosh — are doing, he must feel wronged by the basketball gods. The Big 3 in Miami have already won a title and will probably seriously contend for "Best Team of All Time" honours when their run is through. Meanwhile, he (himself a phenomenal talent) had to play the Red-Headed Stepchild to some undrafted Harvard grad last season.

I'm sure that the Knicks appreciated Lin for all he did last season, but it was an uneasy kind of appreciation. Maybe the management and some of the jealous players realized that people liked Lin despite the Knicks, not because of them. 

The Knicks needed Lin more than Lin needed them (especially with D'Antoni gone), and that was dangerous and irritating. They were probably bitter about people like me who thought that the only non-joke of a decision that the Knicks made was one that they had no intention of making in the first place.

Lin's renegotiation with the Rockets was the last straw. I'm willing to believe that the Knicks wanted to match the initial offer because $600 million. But their resentment and insecurity bubbled to the surface when Lin tried to squeeze a further $5 million out of them, a paltry sum in the big scheme of things.

Maybe this is best for all parties involved. There was no proof last year that Lin and Melo would ever gel, and Woodson is definitely not D'Antoni. Without Lin, the Knicks get to continue trying to prove that the Dolan Method will work (not bloody likely, though). And with the Rockets, Lin gets to be the alpha dog again, just like he was during the height of Linsanity.

There's a lot of uncertainty in the air. Lin may very well prove to be unworthy of his contract. But based on his unreal play last year and his upside (both in basketball and marketing), the risk that the Knicks took would've been a well-measured one.

One thing's for sure though: the last shred of a fuck I gave about the Knicks is gone.

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