The NBA is full of surprises. Last season, Brandon Roy announced his retirement from the game due to health concerns. Chris Paul was dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers in a blockbuster deal – then dealt again to the Los Angeles Clippers after David Stern nixed the trade. In February, Jeremy Lin, an undrafted Asian American out of Harvard who was waived by two teams, set the basketball world ablaze as a New York Knick.
Win after win, record after record, Linsanity was born. The greatest cinderella story in sports appeared before everyone’s eyes but after three frenzied weeks, Linsanity was put on hold temporarily when Lin suffered a knee injury. Today, the New York Knicks, the team that let Linsanity become alive pulled the plug – permanently. The Knicks’ decision to let Jeremy Lin fly off to Houston is a surprise that definitely tops any of the aforementioned shockers from last season.
Madison Square Garden saw it’s market cap grow by $600 million since Linsanity began (Business Insider). The Madison Square Garden stock price soared to record highs. Lin merchandise flew off shelves. Demand for a piece of the NBA’s sweetheart was overwhelming. The Knicks brand had never been more global. But like all good things, Linsanity must end. The Knicks and Jeremy Lin will separate, arguably by way of the most unlikely divorce in sports history. The reason? Money? Not exactly.
Let’s get this straight first. Jeremy Lin had every right to negotiate with the Houston Rockets even if Lin wanted to stay with the Knicks from the beginning. As a restricted free agent, this is the only way he could raise his market price. What Lin did is common and acceptable – and expected. The Knicks were reported to match any offer up to a billion dollars. Of course this statement is an exaggeration, but the message is clear that the Knicks wanted Linsanity to continue in New York whatever price. Sure, money is a big issue, but the Knicks make money. The same cannot be said for a majority of teams in the NBA. Backed by owner James Dolan, the Knicks can cope with a large contract and pay the luxury tax and other penalties without much worry.
Before July 11th, when the moratorium ended, the Houston Rockets and Jeremy Lin unofficially agreed to a contract that would pay him $19.5 million over three years with the final year at $9.3 million. This type of deal is now dubbed a “poison pill” contract because of the price jump at the end that is intended to make teams like the Knicks balk at resigning restricted free agents. The Knicks saw this coming, but they didn’t expect an official offer in the slightest way greater than the original. After July 11th, Lin officially signed an offer sheet from the Rockets. The new offer ballooned to $25.1 million over three years with the final year at $14.9 million. The new contract would cost the Knicks much more than $25.1 million. Depending on future roster moves, the Knicks could be forced to pay over an additional $30 million in luxury tax and other penalties just to keep him.
James Dolan is willing to spend, but he is not one to be ticked off. Lin has done just that. By increasing the original offer, Lin failed to show respect and gratefulness to the Knicks’ organization after New York had been the only team to let Lin shine. Dolan must have believed that Lin heard rumors that the Knicks would match any offer and then later worked on a richer deal with the Rockets. In Dolan’s eyes, Lin toyed with him and the franchise, an act that wouldn’t fly with him.
With the suspense finally over, it should be clear that Dolan and the Knicks let Jeremy Lin go not because of money, but because of something more important, the lack of respect, appreciation, and loyalty.