Jeremy Lin will sign a three-year contract worth $25 million with either the Rockets or the Knicks. The contract will pay him a little more than $5 million in the first two years before jumping up to over $14 million in its final year. The Rockets, in a ridiculous loophole, will have Lin's contract count $8 million against their cap each season, whereas the Knicks will have Lin's contract cost them over $14 million in year three. This poison pill contract is essentially forcing the Knicks, with their huge financial commitments to Tyson Chandler, Stoudemire, and Anthony, to pay a steep luxury tax to keep Lin. That's the basic situation that James Dolan, the Knicks' owner, and Glen Grunwald, the Knicks' General Manager, found themselves in when they traded for Ray Felton.
Here's why that decision is the right one.
1. Lin's teammates lost respect for him for sitting out the playoffs.
Jeremy Lin sat out nearly two months with a torn left meniscus. The Knicks, as a result, trotted out the corpses of Baron Davis and Mike Bibby against the Miami Heat. Lin described himself as 85% percent before Game 5. Knicks fans at the time felt that Lin wasn't going to risk playing on a slightly torn meniscus because he didn't want to risk losing out on his first big contract. This is something that many players would have done, but it certainly didn't ingratiate him with his teammates when they were getting killed by Miami.
2. Lin played his best basketball under Mike D'Antoni.
This is true of most point guards -- hell, D'Antoni even got something out of Chris Duhon. Lin played his best in the wide open style of D'Antoni. There's nothing wrong with this, but Mike Woodson focuses more on defense and isolation than on pick-and-rolls. Lin's style of play is perfect for D'Antoni, but Woodson and his 18-6 record as the interim coach deserves a chance to play with players that fit his system.
3. Lin's defense is porous.
Jeremy Lin is not as good at defense as Ray Felton or Jason Kidd. He might be able to improve, but his defense didn't help the team last year.
4. Lin didn't want to be a Knick.
We've heard from many people on their opinions about the Lin contract and situation, but Lin himself has been very quiet. The NY Post (I know not exactly the most credible) reported that Lin went to the Rockets to have them restructure his deal from a 4 year/$28 million deal (with only $19 million guaranteed) to 3 years/$25 million with even more in the final year. Word had leaked earlier in the offseason from Lin's camp that he didn't feel happy with the Knicks' pursuit of him. The idea that all would be forgotten if Lin returned seems overly optimistic.
5. Ray Felton makes Amar'e Stoudemire better and costs much less.
Lost in the shuffle is the fact that Ray Felton is a solid addition to the Knicks. He had instant chemistry with Stoudemire, something Lin couldn't say. Stoudemire's disappointing season was one of the main reasons the Knicks failed for a second consecutive year to get out of the first round. With his old pick and roll partner, I expect Stoudemire to improve his game and Felton to get back to his Knicks/Bobcats form instead of his Nuggets/Blazers form.
6. Jeremy Lin might not even be that good.
Lin was obviously a great story and his stats were impeccable for a few games, but he is still a flawed player. He is a poor three point shooter, turns the ball over too much, and as discussed earlier, he struggles on defense. He might improve upon these things as he gets older, but the Knicks are built to win now. Could they handle the inevitable growing pains that come from a young point guard? The Knicks need a player who has been through an entire regular season and playoffs, not a 24-year old who has never even played 40 games in a season.
Felton and Kidd give the Knicks two veterans who have proven their ability to play well for an entire season and keep it up during the playoffs. Lin started only 25 games last season and showed signs of wearing down. His playing style is so relentless that it seems unlikely he can withstand the rigors of an entire season and multiple playoff rounds. I expect Lin to end up being around the Mike Conley level for point guards, not a top 10 guy, but a solid player. However, he won't be at that level this season, and Ray Felton will.
7. The fans' reaction is overblown.
Fans just want to win, that's it. They will be happy if the Knicks win -- and trust me, they will. The core of Melo, Stoudemire, and Chandler has been bolstered by the additions of Marcus Camby, Jason Kidd, and Kurt Thomas off the bench. J.R. Smith had a shooting slump last season, but he's still a valuable bench player capable of taking over the game. Most importantly, a healthy off-season for Amar'e and Carmelo will allow the two to work together through an entire training camp. The fans who are upset that Lin is leaving will quickly come back to the Knicks because they are a good team. They are in the mix for the second spot behind the Heat in the East because of their talent with or without Lin.
Jeremy Lin leaving the Knicks might seem like a destructive, classic-Knicks move now, but it isn't. Grunwald got Kidd, Camby, Thomas, Felton, J.R. Smith, and Steve Novak for about what Jeremy Lin will make in three years, despite not having any cap room to begin with. The Knicks have a talented and big front-line that no team in the East, with the possible exception of the Bulls, can match. Jeremy Lin will have a solid next few years for the Rockets, but I doubt Knicks fans will be lamenting his loss once they see their team play.