May 9, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; New York Knicks injured point guard Jeremy Lin (17) looks on prior to game five in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Miami Heat of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the American Airlines Arena. Miami won 106-94. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
The Knicks (who supposedly love Jeremy Lin) and Lin (who supposedly loves the Knicks) could have avoided this whole disaster if only they had kept that meddling Daryl Morey out of the picture. Why didn't they? The Hook is a daily NBA column by Tom Ziller. See the archives.
I find myself surprisingly unaggravated by the idea that Jeremy Lin might soon play for a team other than the New York Knicks. While I found Linsanity compelling in every way -- especially on the court, before Mike Woodson took over -- I understand that there really is no such thing as forever in professional sports, and that for Lin to truly blossom he might need a different environment that what Woodson, Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks provide. I tend to align with my colleague Andrew Sharp on the whole match-or-reject issue.
Lin rose in the absence of order as the Knicks struggled for a positive identity under Mike D'Antoni. That chaos was opportunity for Lin. Woodson instituted order, and it seriously helped the team. Lin can thrive in those conditions, too, but the idea that the Knicks absolutely need Lin to thrive, even at the cost of millions and millions in luxury tax, seems wrong. I say this as someone skeptical of Jason Kidd's production, mind you.
But the thing I really don't understand is why anyone let it get to this point.
If the Knicks were willing to pay Lin as much as the Houston Rockets offered, and are only turned off by that massive loophole third year ... why didn't the Knicks make Lin a strong offer the second Houston's plans became apparent?
"I would do anything for Lin, but I won't do that."
You wouldn't have to do that if you'd shown you would have done anything for Lin in the first place. As soon as word gets out that Houston is offering $31 million with a so-called "poison pill" third year, call Lin's agent and offer $32 million without the "poison pill." Then you have Lin, you have happy fans, and you don't have Carmelo Anthony being taken out of context or J.R. Smith engaging in what Bomani Jones likes to call the time-honored tradition of "meat peeping."
It could have been all so easily avoided. It's not like the Knicks had no idea Houston GM Daryl Morey was capable of playing games -- he did the same thing to the Chicago Bulls with Omer Asik just days prior. There were very few players in the league that the Morey Gambit would work on. Asik and Lin were the most high-profile. Houston had shown interest in both. Morey would have been foolish not to use his sword there. The Knicks were foolish if they didn't see it coming.
There's also the question of why Lin and his agent took a deal they knew would make New York (both the team and the players) cringe. This isn't Nicolas Batum trying to get out of Portland. By all accounts, Lin loves New York, loves the Knicks and loves his teammates. He just wanted to get paid. Houston allowed him to get paid.
But Lin didn't have to sign the wacky offer sheet -- if Houston really wanted him, perhaps Lin's camp could have worked out a deal that would tested the Knicks' interest without making it so onerous. I know that's not in Houston's interest -- their endgame is landing Lin as cheaply as possible, which places a premium on making things difficult for the Knicks -- but it's not as if the point guard didn't have a say.
It's like this: when Carmelo Anthony bemoans the "ridiculousness" of the contract that Houston offered, he's also bemoaning the fact that Lin conspired with the Rockets to get it done. You can't be mad at the team that offered the deal without being mad at the player who took the deal. That's what surprises me most: no one is giving Lin any blame here. It's absolutely stunning if no other reason than a wide swath of sports punditry typically has no problem blaming players on money issues.
Why isn't anyone screaming about Lin's greed the way they did about Carmelo when he wanted to be traded to New York in time to pick up his max extension? There's an incredible double-standard here. Each player's reputation has a huge role in how the sports world views their motives and actions.
There are the two unanswered questions in this whole mess: why did the Knicks let it get to this point, and why did Lin agree to make it extremely uncomfortable for the Knicks to match?
It's completely reasonable to question the Knicks' lack of foresight. But at the same time, you've got to question all you think you know about Lin's supposed loyalty. Both tracks are fair game at this point. The Knicks can make it irrelevant by matching the deal, but if that doesn't happen, this will be a series of events New York and Lin won't soon forget.
The Hook is a daily NBA column by Tom Ziller. See the archives.