Jeremy Lin, the point guard who slept on his brother’s couch as he crafted one of the most dynamic 35-game stretches in NBA history, was allowed to walk from the New York Knicks to the Houston Rockets Tuesday night.
The team that gave Lin the opportunity to emerge from a nobody on the bench into an international somebody – even gracing the cover of Time magazine — elected to not match a three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet he signed with the Rockets. So in essence, the player that charged “Linsanity” and the millions of off-the-court marketing and sponsorship dollars walked from the Knicks without the team receiving any compensation.
Knicks sources and coach Mike Woodson said for a week that the team would match any offer to retain Lin. And considering Knicks owner James Dolan had doled out enormous money to the likes of Eddy Curry, Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas, it seemed reasonable to assume he would do so to keep Lin, a worldwide phenomenon. But, in the end, Dolan considered Lin is too expensive.
Lin took to Twitter when it became official. “Much love and thankfulness to the Knicks and New York for your support this past year…easily the best year of my life#ForeverGrateful.”
“Extremely excited and honored to be a Houston Rocket again!!#RedNation,” Lin added in another tweet.
A team source told ESPNNewYork.com earlier this week that the third year of the Rockets’ offer — worth $14.8 million — caused the Knicks to consider letting Lin go. If the Knicks had matched the offer, they would have been subject to a luxury tax in the third year, potentially bringing their total out-of-pocket cost for the team’s salary to about $43 million in 2014-15.
The Rockets’ offer to Lin would pay him $5 million in the first year, $5.225 million in the second and $14.8 million in the third, according to sources.
The Knicks, realizing a $30-million penalty in Year 3 of the contract that would come with matching the offer, made a sign-and-trade deal to acquire another point guard, Raymond Felton. Felton played one season with the Knicks, but it was nowhere near as exciting as Lin’s New York stay.
Lin, 23, was a revelation, performing brilliantly for a stretch that included 38 points in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers on national television and hitting the game-winning shot at Toronto. In between, he was mostly steady, although he did have a turnover problem. He averaged 14.6 points, 6.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds in 35 games with 25 starts before his season was cut short because of surgery to repair torn cartilage in his knee.
An undrafted guard out of Harvard, Lin was cut twice in the preseason, once by Houston, and played in the D-League, before leading the Knicks to seven consecutive wins that electrified the city and the Asian community. His rise earned him a significant raise, from $788,000 last season to $5 million this season.
His departure has sparked much debate among media and fans in New York, a debate that will rage for quite some time.