Jeremy Lin was given countless assurances by the New Knicks that they wanted him to not only return to the team but to be next year’s starting point guard. On top of that, Lin said he wanted to play in New York and had no real notions of actually playing for the Houston Rockets.
But Lin is a Rocket now because the Knicks refused to match the $25-mllion offer sheet he signed with Houston. It was not really not the money that forced New York to let him go with no compensation in return. It was the structure of the deal, which boosted his salary in Year 3 to more than $14 million. It would put the team over the cap and create a $30 team penalty. Owner James Dolen did not want to dole out that kind of money to a player he was not sure would be a star at that point in his career.
“Honestly, I preferred New York,” Lin told Sports Illustrated. “But my main goal in free agency was to go to a team that had plans for me and wanted me. I wanted to have fun playing basketball. Now I’m definitely relieved.”
Lin told Sports Illustrated that he’d never considered the idea that the Knicks wouldn’t match his offer until the team traded for point guard Raymond Felton Saturday. Lin had been given several assurances that he would be retained.
In late June, the 23-year-old had dinner with Knicks coach Mike Woodson in Los Angeles to talk about his future with the club.
“Woodson was saying, ‘You’re going to be a starter, you’re going to be a big part of the team,'” Lin recalled. “I came away really excited.”
“Felton’s signing was the first time when I thought, ‘Oh, wow, I might not be a Knick,'” Lin added.
That reality came Tuesday night. He goes to a Houston team, coached by Hall of Famer Kevin McHale, that finished ninth in the Western Conference last year.