Knicks have an easy decision to make with Lin

July 16, 2012, 9:56 pm
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Sometimes the basketball gods smile upon an organization andthey hand it an easy choice that turns into a simple decision a no-brainer ifyou will.And thats what the New York Knicks have in front of themright now with Jeremy Lin.RELATED: AP -- For Knicks, match Lin or regret if he goes
You gotta let him go.What the Knicks must decide by Tuesday night is whether ornot they will match a three-year, 25.1 million offer sheet given to Lin by theHouston Rockets. Those numbers, on the surface, are daunting enough. But uponinspection, they get even worse.Not only is 8-plus million per season awfully high for aplayer who has started only 25 NBA games in his career, but in the third yearof the deal Lins salary balloons to 15 million.That number alone puts Lin into the superstar money category.But in a double-whammy of sorts, that figure also would likely put the Knickswell into the luxury tax area and could cost them an extra 35 to 45million.RELATED: Jeremy Lin 2012 game logs
Thats not Lins fault, of course, but its hisburden.Teams that are over the luxury tax must pay a significantpenalty, and the amount depends on how far over the tax a team is. The moreyoure over, the more you have to pay, in other words.Lin was a one-of-a-kind story last season. After gettingwaived by the Warriors and Rockets, he was signed by the Knicks. And whatfollowed was one of the most unexpected and thrilling runs the league has everseen: A virtual unknown leading one of the leagues marquee franchises to theplayoffs.With the Knicks roster hit by injury, Lin stepped into bigminutes and delivered in such a big way that it garnered the attention of bothhard-core NBA fans and casual ones.Whether people believe it or not, Lin hadnt proven that inhis year-and-a-half playing for the Warriors, Rockets and early in his New Yorktenure. He has certainly proven that now.Is he a star? Most dont believe so. Can he be a good teamsstarting point guard over the course of seasons? Youll get lots of Nosthere. Is he a solid backup who can start for you in a pinch? There are manywho think thats where Lin might be at.It is a little tougher projecting Lins future and where hecan go from here because nobody thought he would get this far in the firstplace. So, hes already blown through the expectation-ceiling. Whos to say hecant do it again?But there are also very real issues with Lin like the factthat perhaps his greatest strength is his biggest weakness: Toughness. Over thecourse of my time covering the NBA, Ive rarely seen a player who is anytougher than Lin.He is a physical defender with more size than you think onthe perimeter. He can drive and take contact. Nobody in the league dives on thefloor or gets knocked to it more than Lin.One of the reasons, Lin has made it this far is because heis a relentless competitor, a nonstop worker, and a basketball junkie at heart.Its bad grammar, but Lin cant not play.He will continue to play this way because he still has a lotto prove, and its in his nature anyway.Bottom line is I just cant see him staying consistentlyhealthy over the course of his career. And, yes, I know Lin will play hurt. Ionce saw him practice for a stretch with some kind of shoulder contraptionwrapdraped from one side of his body to the next.Another thing is this -- its difficult to see Lin being thesame caliber point guard as Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Deron Williams,Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo or Tony Parker.Those, after all, could be considered legitimate 15-millplayers, which again is what Lin would be making for the Knicks in Year No. 3.Leaving aside, of course, that 35 to 45 million theyll likely have to pay inpenalty.And if you go further, where does Lin stack up against pointguards such as Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Mike Conley, Ricky Rubio, Ty Lawson andStephen Curry? Some Lin backers might tell you hes right there withthem.Others will tell you hes not in that group.Of course, what complicates the decision s is Linsnon-basketball appeal. Few players have captured the attention of fans andnon-fans alike like Lin. Hes a phenomena. Still, if were talking about Lin and the decision theKnicks have to make in basketball terms only its pretty obvious what theyvegot to do. And it sure seems like they know it.Theyve signed Jason Kidd and are also acquiring RaymondFelton. Most perceive that acquiring Felton means the Knicks will not matchHoustons exorbitant offer sheet.Letting Lin walk would be painful and disappointing in manyways for the organization and Knicks fans.But in basketball terms, it will be as sound a financialmove as the Knicks have made recently.

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