The Decision: Jeremy Lin

07.17.2012

SPORTS

It’s a lose-lose situation. Whether the New York Knicks decide to retain Jeremy Lin, or not, it will ultimately cost them– both money and the allegiance of fans.

As the debate for Lin rages on, NYC stands divided on the forthcoming decision Knicks owner James Dolan will have to make on Tuesday night. At midnight, the 72-hour window during which Dolan had to match the Houston Rockets’ three-year, $25.1 million offer to the 23-year-old point guard sensation will expire and a definitive answer will be given on whether the Knicks believe in his potential and attractive stardom, or if they will allow him to walk away. Many who oppose New York matching Houston’s deal question the value of a player who hardly played as a rookie and participated in only 26 games last season, despite his meteoric rise in February that saved the Knicks’ season. Those in favor question the Knicks’ commitment, not only to Lin, but also to building a title contender.

On Saturday night, New York acquired Raymond Felton, the Knicks’ former point guard who was dealt to Denver in the Carmelo Anthony trade, and veteran power-forward Kurt Thomas, another former Knick, in a move that all but seemed to suggest that Dolan was leaning towards letting Lin go. The Twitterverse lit up with conflicting responses, some in favor of the return of Felton and Thomas, while others were infuriated at the possibility of Lin’s departure from Broadway. The Knicks’ decision to sign Felton came as a surprise, since New York obtained first-ballot Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd last week, to come in to mentor the guard. It was a reversal of the original plan that fans deemed to be a step in the right direction. But once Houston upped the ante on their offer, the Knicks who appeared to be all in, automatically pumped the breaks and rerouted their course, sending New Yorkers into frenzy.

Majority of Knicks’ fans angst derives from ill-fated deals the team has made in the past. Dolan is notorious for spending a lot of money on players past their prime. Jerome James and Steve Francis come to mind. According to The New York Times, the Knicks have led the NBA in payroll and luxury-tax payments for years. Yet , the old adage of “you have to spend to win,” over the last 10 years has rarely applied to the Knicks. Now, faced with the opportunity to take a warranted risk on his franchise’s future, Dolan for the first time in over a decade seems hesitant to open up the MSG vault.

It’s reported that Lin –who averaged 18.6 points and 7.6 assists per game last season– due to his “poison pill” contract, is slated to receive $5 million a year for the first two seasons and up to $14.8 million in the third. The backloaded contract could cost the Knicks nearly $43 million, extending them over the luxury tax threshold on top of what’s owed to Melo, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler. Sure, the decision not to match the Rockets’ offer would save the Knicks a ton of money and from penalties, but since when has Dolan ever cared about penalties? Why start now, when last season, Lin became the Knicks cash cow?

According to a New York Times report, the Madison Square Garden Company added about $250 million in value in February alone from the rise of Linsanity, and has gained roughly $600 million overall since Lin was inserted into the starting lineup. The amount of money Dolan will spend in penalties, if he matches, would be pennies compared to the amount of income made from Lin’s marketability. With Kidd being arrested and charged with a DUI over the weekend, Dolan’s decision to match Lin’s contract may still have some life. Knicks’ fans would be eternally grateful if he does decide to match.

Basketball is a game of runs and Lin is on one hell of one. To go from being cut by two professional teams to the talk of New York, in a month’s time, is impressive. To negotiate a contract, worth millions, based off your popularity and upside, makes you a force to be reckoned with. In only a year, the Harvard graduate has learned to play the game on-and-off-the-court. Now that we know he can ball, where will J.Lin hold court come October? Will he take his talents to H-Town or remain in NY?

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