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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

Column: New contract is "Linsanity"

Saturday, July 21, 2012

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.

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Aww man, I had made a pretty long comment but it got lost since I didn't have an account for this site. But this is wrong for a few reasons. Bullet points:

* He only would have been paid $15 million in the last year of his contract because the Knicks are paying lots of money to Amare Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, and Carmelo Anthony. With the Rockets, he makes the same amount each year for salary cap purposes - about $8.3 million. It's not his fault the Knicks have one of the largest payrolls in the league for what probably amounts to the 10th-12th best team. Also, the Knicks made no qualifying offer to Lin. This article has some good details about Lin's free agency, and he admits he would have likely stayed in New York if they had made an offer: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/ba...

* $8.3 million a year is not an outrageous amount (you can think of it as being even cheaper than that due to the fact considering that he's getting paid 5 million the first two years and 15 million the third year - time value of money and all). Lin isn't even one of the 50 highest-paid players. This stands out even more because all first-round draft picks have a fixed salary for the first four years of their career, so a few young stars like Kyrie Irving would also make more money than Lin if they were allowed to. In other words, $8.3 million is the salary you'd pay an above-average starter, but not quite an All-Star. This makes sense because Lin averaged about 15 points and 6 assists in his second month as a starter, which is in the neighborhood of what players like Jameer Nelson and Devin Harris put up. Not to mention that he's 23, and is likely to improve throughout the course of the contract.

*I could probably chalk up the first two points to misinformation, and you would have had a perfectly sensible column halfway through. Yeah, Lin had a pretty good run, but the sample size is too small to warrant that kind of money, his style of play doesn't mesh with Carmelo, whatever. However, things started getting silly towards the end of the column.

*The target on the back thing. Don't you think the target was already pretty big when Jeremy Lin was getting all sorts of national hype after only playing about a week's worth of games? I can't think of much more motivation for a young NBA player than the chance to have a huge game against the guy whose name was mentioned more often on SportsCenter than "if" or "but" for a week (http://deadspin.com/5886442/bristolmetrics-sportscenter-said-lin-more-often-than-if-or-but-last-week). Also, call me old fashioned, but I think the fact that professional basketball players have millions of dollars and their egos at stake means that they're going to try pretty hard regardless.

*He was undrafted and bounced around the league for a reason? Is this implying that all decision-making in the NBA is infallible? Are you trying to say that the Rockets would have been better served giving Jonny Flynn a huge contract to be their point guard? After all, he was drafted sixth overall in 2009, so he must have more potential! I'm sure Sam Bowie was drafted ahead of Michael Jordan for a reason, but history still tells us that the decision was ill-advised. Whatever reason the Rockets had for releasing him didn't keep them from offering this so-called outrageous contract less than a year later.

Bottom line: $8 million per year isn't as much as people think in the NBA, and if Lin plays even 75 percent as well as he did over the course of last season, the Rockets are getting their money's worth even before taking all of the marketing money into account.

-- Posted by deweyrb on Wed, Aug 8, 2012, at 3:31 AM

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Zach Jevne
Real Sports Talk
Zach joined the Daily Reporter staff as sports editor in March 2011. He is originally from Decorah, Iowa. He played baseball at University of Northern Iowa and studied multimedia journalism at Simpson College.