Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Lin-Side Story of Why Jeremy Lin Left the Knicks-Part 2

Please read Part 1 first

The real-life Jeremy Lin story reads like a modern day Cinderella fable that is too good to be true! Who would have believed that a homeless, journey man and career basketball benchwarmer on the brink of being cut by his 3rd team in a year would be given a last opportunity to play in New York? If that sounds made up, consider what actually did happen in this “Linderella Story.” Without superstars Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, Jeremy Lin not only outplayed the likes of Kobe Bryant and beat teams with his passing, scoring and even last shot threes. Our hero galvanized a group of scrubs into the hotest team in the NBA, saved the faltering New York Knicks and led it into playoff contention before he was struck down by a season-ending knee injury! As the world watched this story unfold on TV, in newspaper headlines and on the stage of the famed Madison Square Garden, Lin became one of the most exciting success stories in sports history who is beloved around the world! Lin's fans idolize him to the degree that they would never believe him capable of doing any wrong. When midnight in this story struck, Jeremy Lin fans were quick to blame his ‘evil stepfather!’ Many feel James Dolan deceived Lin by bringing in Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton disguised as mentors to teach Lin. They feel Mr. Dolan imported them to replace Lin who was soon banished to a ‘bad’ team in Houston as his ‘wicked stepbrothers’ gloated! 
No pumpkin or mice left in this story when the dust clears. In these two parts, I have endeavored to examine the wild accusation of Lin’s disheartened fans and to accurately separate the facts from the emotion. I welcome input from Jeremy Lin, the Knicks and the Rockets. I look forward to writing part 3 should they care to share their perspectives. So what is the truth?  As much as people want to believe that it was all James Dolan’s fault and Jeremy Lin could never do anything wrong, this is not a fairy tale. In real life, there often is enough responsibility to be shared:

The AP and Sports Illustrated both reported “Jeremy Lin loves New York. He wanted to stay!” There is little doubt that New York adores Jeremy Lin and didn’t want him to leave. But I have to wonder if Lin really wanted to stay in the Big Apple, why did he work with the Rockets to help make a deal that hurt the Knicks?

“How can we be sure Lin worked with the Rockets in its shrewd plan to throw in a $15-Million poison pill that would cost the Knicks up to $60-Million in salary and Luxury Tax just for Lin in the 3rd year?” Lin agreed to a previous offer that the Rockets were required to honor. But this would not hurt the Knicks enough. An extra $5-Million bought Lin’s consent to void it and he signed the second offer that would!

“Maybe Lin never realized that his working with the Rockets and his signing the 2nd offer would infuriate James Dolan so much that the Knicks’ owner would banish Lin for his disloyalty!” We are not talking about a low-IQ jock flying by the seat of his pants here. Although it is highly unlikely that the Harvard-educated Lin didn’t realize it, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Lin pays his savvy agent and expensive lawyers to protect him. They went over both offers with a fine-tooth comb. Surely, they would be considered incompetent and unprofessional if they didn’t anticipate that signing the 2nd offer was likely to make Dolan irate and warn Lin of the consequences!

“Lin took a $5-Million gamble!” That makes sense. Rather than refusing to sign the 2nd offer and settling for $5-Million less, the thinking could have been that If Knicks match great, but if not, Jeremy Lin is still getting an additional $5-Million to go to the Rockets!

“Lin’s ego was hurt when the Knicks went after Steve Nash, Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton!” Unlikely because Knicks’ coach Woodson publicly announced we want Jeremy Lin back and he will be our starting point guard! The other PG’s were there to teach and back up Lin.

“Lin didn’t want to be in New York anymore!” That is also a strong possibility for a few reasons.  Lin’s best friend Landry Fields had just left the team for the Raptors. Starting for the Knicks and the difficult challenge of getting Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire to play well together may have been too much pressure for Lin. Especially when he couldn’t accomplish it when both came back after Linsanity!  

“Who can blame Lin for taking the money and running?  Unless you assume that Lin is a 25-game flash-in-the-pan that is bound to disappoint, and I don’t, this would be a very short-sighted approach! Although Lin will get an extra $5-Million in the 3-year contract, that’s nothing compared to his potential career earnings had Kidd & Felton taught Lin to be an all-star! Although Lin could have lived very well on $20-Million while he was learning, without this training, Lin could ultimately lose $100’s of Millions!

“The Rockets really didn’t want Lin they just want to hurt the Knicks!?” No Houston really needed a point guard and hurting the Knicks is just a bonus! The Rockets wanted Jeremy Lin because they lost all three point guards! Unrestricted free agent Goran Dragic went to the Suns. Kyle Lowry was traded to the Raptors and they withdrew their qualifying offer to Courtney Lee. Adding Lin would not only give them a starting PG, it would also help Houston sell tickets, improve TV ratings and increase merchandising. The Rockets hope Lin’s addition would similarly build upon the Asian following that Yao Ming started and even make the Rockets more a desirable destination for Dwight Howard to choose.

“The Knicks will be terrible without Lin because those old guys need walkers!” Although I would have preferred to see the inexperienced 23-year-old Lin stay and grow in New York, the Knicks are much stronger at the point-guard position now. Felton and Kidd should be able to do what Lin couldn’t, get Melo and STAT to play well and together. The three Knicks new point guards may not be young but still have a lot of thread left on their tires. These savvy veterans are also good shooters who easily can help J.R. Smith man the shooting guard position until Iman Shumpart returns from injury. The addition of Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas also provides defense and depth, making the Knicks formidable! It is amazing how much the Knicks management was able to accomplish in the off season to make the team so much better – especially given so little cap room. Had New York also chosen to keep Jeremy Lin, its fans would be campaigning for Glen Grunwald to be elected as NBA GM of the Year.

“Wow the addition of Jeremy Lin will make the Rockets great again! Sorry in the tough west, the Rockets, as presently constituted, will have a difficult time to even make the playoffs – should Lin play great! If Lin, who only started 25 games in his NBA career, gets injured or struggles, Houston will have real problems to keep the Rockets from crashing!

 Sadly, Knicks fans say goodbye to Jeremy Lin and wish him the best!  He brought his great heart and courageous play to the Knicks and we will really miss him. Hopefully, Lin will grow into an all-star that matches his world-wide iconic reputation. That would be a fitting ending for our “Linderella Story!”

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Lin-Side Story of Why Jeremy Lin Left the Knicks-Part 1

The Lin controversy stirred up a hornet’s nest of anger and ire with  fans divided in blaming Knicks, Rockets, NBA and even Lin for his departure from NY. This two-part article profiles LinSanity and uses fan’s concerns to separate the facts from fiction.

Jeremy Lin took an amazing journey from being homeless to an overnight world-wide icon! Jeremy Shu-How Lin, who at only 23 is one of the world’s most beloved sports heroes, was born in Los Angeles, California on August 23, 1988 and raised in Palo Alto. The Harvard graduate that went undrafted is the first American of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA. After being cut by the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets following his rookie year, the seldom-used Lin was picked up on waivers by the Knicks. In New York, Lin was so worried about his finances that he slept on his brother’s and Landry Field’s couches. Lin was reluctant to pay for hotels because the Knicks’ 4th-string point guard’s contract was not guaranteed and he was on the verge of being unemployed without severance pay.

Lin’s story reads as though it was a too-good-to-be-true fairy tale. The 8-15 Knicks were facing injuries to their point guards and those filling in couldn’t get the team to play cohesively. Figuring he’d take a final look at Lin before cutting him, coach Mike D'Antoni give the 23-year-old bench warmer his chance. Lin surprised everyone by leading the win-starved Knicks to a thrilling 99-92 victory over the New Jersey Nets and scoring 25 points. Lin was given his first NBA start the next game. He propelled New York to a seven-game win streak that included his out playing Kobe Bryant in an upset win against the Lakers. Named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week, Lin averaged 27 points and 8 assists. Lin’s 109 points was the most points scored by any NBA player in their first four starts since the 1976-77 season!

Lin rescued the struggling Knicks and LinSanity was born! Even when Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire were absent due to injury, Lin galvanized New York into playoff contention.  Lin’s brave forays into the paint, potent scoring, timely steals and deft passes inspired LinSanity. Lin restored the excitement, joy and hope that Knicks fans had not experienced in decades. Jeremy Lin became a beloved and admired hero around the world.  From a seldom-used scrub, he went on to become a world-wide icon that was featured on the cover of “Sports Illustrated” two weeks in a row! In his 25 games as a starter, Lin sold out every arena he played in, raised NBA TV ratings and sold more jerseys than virtually any other NBA player! On the road, fans cheered louder for him than for their home teams. 
Mike Woodson declared Lin is our starting point guard and the Knicks will match any offer! So let’s examine the facts and fiction:

“Lin is the best point guard in Knick’ history and soon will become a super-star!”
Carmelo Anthony explained ''I don't think nobody really has an idea what his ceiling is,'' Although Lin must prove himself before anyone anoints him as the next Walt Clyde Frazier, Anthony stressed. ''What he was able to do for that little stretch that he played before he got hurt, he was at the all-time high, from a game standpoint doing what he was able to do, averaging 20 something-plus points, almost 10 assists. I'm ready to see what's next.'' In short, only time will tell how good Lin can become and if he'll ever be a star.

“Lin is a turn-over prone, 25-game flash-in-the- pan that was stopped by the Heat!” Although I agree Lin does need to learn how to handle the ball better, he has been very effective despite his turnovers-except against the Heat. The question that remains to be answered is will teams learn how to stop Lin or will he learn how to overcome stifling D? Lin would have had his best chance of learning quickly under veteran PG’s on the Knicks rather than being the only PG on the Rockets. That is Lin’s biggest loss!

“Lin is a shoot-first PG that was good in MDA’s style but is wrong for the Knicks because he never can play with Melo & Amare!” Although Lin has been a scoring point guard without the Knicks stars, it may be because Lin had to carry the scoring load in their absence. Lin is a smart player and had he been given enough time to learn from Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton, I have no doubt he would have learned how.
“Knicks never wanted to keep Lin, so they had to find a way to let him go!” Ridiculous! Lin is a smart, moral, respectful and humble guy who never gets into trouble and is well liked by Knicks’ management and teammates alike. He is an international-marketing and box-office gold mine who makes lots of money for the Knicks and produces lots of positive publicity for the NBA. Lin played very well before he was injured and works hard to make himself and his teammates better! What is not to like about Lin?

“If Melo wanted Lin he would have been kept!” This is another reach in my opinion. If Anthony had declared “I’ll demand a trade if Lin leaves,” perhaps the Knicks might have kept him. But why would Melo stick out his neck and risk both players being exiled?  

“The Rockets made it financially impossible for the Knicks to match and keep Lin!” No! They made it difficult by back loading Lin’s $25.1-million contract with a balloon payment of nearly $15-million in the third year. Known as a poison pill, it could have cost the already over-the-cap Knicks as much as $45-million in luxury tax or $60-million total that year just for Lin. But since the Rockets are under the cap, they would have to pay Lin only a little over $8-million a year!

"Lin left the Knicks because it is the NBA's fault!" The new NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement, designed to penalize teams over the cap, makes it easy for under-cap teams to legally steal Restricted Free Agents! Why should the Knicks have to pay up to $70-Million for Lin's final year in salary and Luxury Tax and the Rockets can get him for only a little more than 8-Million? Ironically, this provision contradicts the spirit of Bird Rights, enabling teams to keep their own RFA's. The Players' Association just fought for and won binding arbitration against the NBA to get Bird Rights on behalf of Lin and other waved players.  

 “Lin who started only 25 NBA games in his career is a gamble not worth as much as $70M in salary + tax!” Although Lin’s unknown ultimate value and the poison-pill arguments might convince many NBA teams to pass on him, money is not why the Knicks let Lin go! Although Knicks are already capped out, Lin has Bird rights that enable them to match any offer to keep him. They could easily trade Lin’s $15-million expiring contact in year 3 to a team looking to gain cap space. If the Knicks did decide to release Lin in the summer of 2014, the new CBA's "stretch provision" would allow New York to avoid a one-time salary cap hit by paying him about $5-million per year for the next 3 seasons. Lastly, James Dolan spends like its play money, so why would that stop him now?

“Knicks said they’d keep Lin at any price! Why didn’t the-most-over-the-cap team in NBA history spend the money to keep him?”  Under the new CBA, the Knicks could only pay Lin about $15-million for 3 years unless he got a higher offer from another team. They told Lin that they want him back at a price that would be fair to him. To do this, Lin was advised to test the market to see what he could get and the Knicks would match the offer! Woodson even declared publicly that Knicks want Lin back and he will be our starting point guard. Lin had originally agreed to sign the Rockets 4 year offer sheet of $28-million. Since year 4 was not guaranteed and at Houston’s option, the Knicks would have been required to pay only $19.5 million for Lin. So far, Lin did exactly what the Knicks told him to do. When the Rockets heard that the Knicks were going to match it, they ripped it up with Lin’s permission and offered him a new 3-year $25-million contract. Although it’s unclear whether Lin was the one who told the Rockets about the Knicks intention of matching the first offer or it leaked out, James Dolan was outraged that Lin worked with the Rockets to burn the Knicks. The conclusive proof was that Lin signed the 2nd offer after agreeing to the first!  Although the price of the second offer could cost up to $70 in salary and tax, the Knicks would have matched it – but Jeremy Lin’s working with the Rockets against the Knicks got James Dolan angry!

In part 2, we will disclose why Jeremy Lin chose to leave the Knicks despite his claim that he loves New York and wanted to stay, plus how adding Lin could help the Rockets land Dwight Howard.

Read Part 2 to Learn How Lin's Move Effects the Knicks & Rockets
 As Well As What Was Lin's and Dolan's Roles

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