The Knicks may still buy into the notion that Jeremy Lin is some kind of savior-in-waiting for them. But if they essentially buy Lin off the Rockets for the offer sheet Houston has offered him, maybe they are the ones who are a little bit Linsane. And if a deal that will pay Lin nearly max NBA money in a couple of years costs the Knicks any chance at Chris Paul when Paul becomes available as a free agent in a year, then they will be acting certifiable.
Look at it another way: Look at what Victor Cruz did for the Giants when he came out of nowhere last season when he was breaking the Giants’ single-season record for receiving yards and look at what Lin did for the Knicks, and tell me that it was really close. No matter how swept away everybody was by what Lin did in the month of February, starting with the day before the Super Bowl against the Nets.
This doesn’t mean Lin isn’t a very nice, unselfish player and a nice young man with what is obviously a tremendous backstory just since he graduated Harvard. Maybe he can make the Knicks better next season than they were without him in the playoffs.
Or maybe a playoff series against the Miami Heat, which wasn’t very nice to him in the regular season, would have exposed Lin, and he would have turned the ball over too much, and the Rockets wouldn’t have come after him with a deal that doesn’t just pay him $25 million but nearly pays him $15 million in the third year of the deal. It would mean the Knicks, if they match, will have a small fortune tied up in four basketball players:
And . . . Jeremy Lin?
It was assumed all along that the Knicks would match the Rockets’ offer sheet, once they actually got the Rockets’ offer sheet, until the word began to get around on Saturday night that the Knicks were trading for Raymond Felton. Now, nobody ever discussed Felton as an instant global icon, but you may remember that the Knicks were going along very nicely — before the Carmelo Anthony trade — with Felton as the point guard.
But he did pretty well in Mike D’Antoni’s system, working it with Amar’e Stoudemire, before he was one of the Knicks who had to leave town to make room for Anthony. And suddenly on Saturday night, Knicks fans started to think that Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton was not such a terrible alternative to Kidd and Lin, and a whole heck of a lot cheaper. And might keep the Knicks in play for Paul when the time comes.
Understand: The Knicks may still want Lin. Or maybe they have taken a step back and taken a hard look at the salary-cap implications down the road of signing Lin to this particular deal. Maybe they have taken all the giddy emotion of Linsanity out of the equation and decided that the financials of the deal make no sense to them, no matter how big a story Lin became when he was like a shooting star across the city and the sport and, briefly, the whole sporting landscape in this country.
When suddenly his talent was supposed to be the same size as his story.
“I think the kid was great,” Larry Brown said to me about Lin a week or so ago. “It is a wonderful story. But I look at him as a terrific backup in the NBA. I may be wrong, I really want him to be successful, but I think if you overpay him for the interest that he created, that’s not the best thing.”
Brown does like Jeremy Lin, everybody likes Lin, how can you not like the way he came off the bench the way he did and became this kind of star, across the 25 games he started before he got hurt against the Detroit Pistons? Nobody is rooting against Lin, and nobody is saying he can’t help the Knicks get better next season.
It is still a fact that when he flourished, it was in Mike D’Antoni’s system, not Mike Woodson’s. He flourished when both Amar’e and Carmelo were sidelined with injuries. And may never flourish in a system that begins and ends — it just does — with the ball going to Carmelo Anthony. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve been wondering if Lin might not be better off if the Knicks don’t match the Rockets’ rather insane offer sheet, a $25 million offer sheet to a guy they cut not too long ago.
Lin was effective when he had the ball. A lot. He had it a lot in February especially because the Knicks were desperate. Remember what they looked like, and not just in the standings, when they did play that game against the Nets the day before the Super Bowl. They were going nowhere, and D’Antoni, who would resign later, was going to get fired. Lin got a chance and it was like one of those old Broadway musicals, like “42nd Street,” where the kid comes out of the chorus and becomes a star.
Only this time the show was “33rd Street,” and boy was it fun to watch, and the world went mad for Jeremy Lin.
Maybe the Knicks are still mad for him when the smoke clears. Maybe this was all smoke and mirrors on Saturday night and he still ends up with the Knicks. Maybe they do end up making a business decision that only partly has to do with the business of basketball, which would also be a little bit nuts for a basketball team backed by Cablevision.
Twenty-five starts for Jeremy Lin, now worth $25 million to the Rockets. Doesn’t mean he’s automatically worth that much to the New York Knicks.
-- Mike Lupica