I don't blame the Knicks for not matching the offer to point guard and last year's phenomenon Jeremy Lin this week. The Harvard grad who blew up the NBA and national media with a bullet-ride to the top will now play for the Houston Rockets next season after signing a 3-year, $25 million offer sheet.
Here's a timeline for Jeremy Lin, if you need one: Undrafted. Cut by multiple teams last year, including the Rockets. Played 20 minutes and scored nine points off the bench on Jan. 28. Averaged 18.5 points and 7.6 assists in 25 starts with the Knicks. Signed a $25-million contract July 13.
From a bench-warming roster-filler to $25 million in less than six months. Wow. The American Dream is alive.
It's a credit to Lin for staying in the game, keeping his dream alive, and capitalizing on his opportunity. There's no doubt he was one of the NBA's top point guards last year.... for about a month.
Then Carmelo Anthony came back from injury and Lin's numbers dropped. Then Lin went down with an injury and never returned, not even for the first round playoff match-up against the Miami Heat.
Now, as a restricted free agent this offseason, Lin and the Rockets pushed the price up on a qualifying offer that the Knicks would have to match in order to keep him. The contract features $15 million in the third year, which is outrageous.
And that's why I can't blame the Knicks for not matching the offer and letting him go to Houston. There's a very, very small chance Lin will be worth $15 million in three years on the court. If the Knicks were to pay him $15 mil in 2014-15, its luxury tax would go through the roof to the tune of another $30 million.
I understand the Knicks aren't exactly strapped for cash and Lin is set to be a global marketing machine, but you can't have a guy eating up $45-50 million in one year (with luxury taxes) without a bigger sample size than 30 games.
Lin's marketability, his jersey sales, his appeal to the Asian population are all reasons the Knicks wished they could keep him. But for an untested player, who's already been injured in less than half a season, it's hard to sink that much dough in.
The Rockets had no problem doing it. They're trying to replace Yao Ming, who served as a bridge to the Far East. Yao was voted in to the All-Star Game every year and expanded NBA awareness to new heights in China. I'm sure the Rockets are banking on Lin's global marketability and figure he will easily earn his salary due to the increased revenue brought in by new sponsors.
Call me old-fashioned but I tend to think winning games and being a great player is the way to earn one of the biggest salaries in the league, not just selling jerseys. Lin has potential, but the road to NBA stardom is littered with players with potential. Lin was undrafted for a reason. He bounced around bad teams for over a year for a reason.
With this new contract, every young point guard in the league is going put a target on Lin's back and go at him hard. Players looking to prove he's not worth that much money, they are.
The meteoric rise to fame last year can't be denied. But signing him up for an outrageous balloon payment three years down the road can be. The Rockets jumped the gun. Good luck moving Lin's contract in two years.
At least there will be plenty of Jeremy Lin #7 jerseys in the stands.