Words by Phlip
[Phlip note – if you are a Knicks fan, it is suggested that you change the channel now]
While no one in the organization has expressly SAID it, it is quite obvious that the Knicks are more about turning an exorbitant profit, and winning basketball is purely an optional element of turning that profit.
Last year, an undrafted and twice-waived point guard received the proper amount of pixie dusñt at the proper time and took the league on one wild-ass ride en route to saving the team’s season and his own career at the same time, making for an element of what he himself recently has said was “easily the best year of my life.” And did I mention that this cat was Asian? It is worth mentioning that back in February I let my racism hang loose in explaining just what the above sentence meant for the situation at hand.
Well, the team that INVENTED the “Asian rush” in the NBA was waiting in the wings down in Houston to try their hands had rekindling the flame and at the same time exposing just how poorly run an organization the New York Knickerbockers are nowadays. With Jeremy Lin as a Restricted Free Agent – meaning any team could offer him a deal and the Knicks have the first right to match it in order to keep him, with all Salary Cap rules applicable – it was widely expected that the Knicks would see the off-court value of the kid as sufficient reasoning to match any on-court figure another team offered him.
What happened next was nothing short of genius.
The Houston Rockets offered him 3 years and about $25million. “No huge deal, that is normal all-star money,” one might say. (I would be surprised if the Asian market doesn’t make him a starter within 2 seasons.) This is where the genius-level thoughts occur…
See, the Knicks are on the hook for the contracts of Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Cleotis Chandler for that same period of time and those will total about $46million in the year that this becomes an issue, BEFORE they factor in what any of the other 9 guys on the roster must be paid. The Rockets have plenty of space planned out for then, so they made the first couple years of the contract pedestrian at $5ish million per, then that third year is $15million. That would have the Knicks over the Salary Cap before they even paid their entire starting lineup, one of whose contract cannot even be insured because his knees are apparently 20 years older than he is. Breaking the Salary Cap in the year in question is scheduled to become incredibly monetarily punishing.
That enormous last year is what they call in the industry a “poison pill,” to shake off potential suitors. Now, by the “rules,” it made sense that the Knicks do not match that, but the Knicks being the Knicks and knowing that simply HAVING a phenom with nothing but upside who just HAPPENS to be of the same racial makeup of the world’s largest singular population should be profitable enough to go ahead and PAY that luxury tax, no? Leave it to the Knicks to find the worst possible time in the world to become Ebenezer Scrooge when it comes to paying someone. No, not the team that paid Stephon Marbury, Jerome James, Steve Francis, or Eddie Curry just to name a few.
After spending lavishly on a Power Forward with two surgically repaired knees that cannot even get an insured contract (Stoudemire), trading all of the talent that made you ACTUALLY competitive for a Small Forward who is not interested in sharing the ball with his teammates (Anthony) and a Center who has about as much offensive sophistication as my 23-pound daughter (Chandler) the Knicks decide that the guy whose contract will pay for ITSELF in marketing and merchandise is just too damned expensive?
My best friend, a Knicks fan, has been quarterbacking this one all along. Back in March, we talked about it and he hedged his bets that the Knicks would come at Jeremy Lin with some Ike Turner “we made you, you CAN’T leave us” kind of talk and would – just like Ike – watch as Jeremy Lin plays the role of Anna Mae go off and profit without them. As if on cue, the Knicks invited him to feel out the market and see what other teams thought he would be worth, then lo and behold, he found a deal with another Asian-friendly market with money to spend on him.
And the Knicks’ organization made it known that they weren’t planning to try to retain him without saying so by the simple fact that all Jeremy Lin merchandise was gone from their website while they still had 2 days to acknowledge and match the Rockets’ offer.
For those keeping score at home, Jeremy Lin was an Asian-American undrafted free agent who had been cut TWICE and in the D-League once. The odds were stacked against him in this from the outset. I cannot BLAME the kid for approaching this with an “I ain’t going back to jail” mentality in the very least.
I CAN, however, blame the Knicks for having snared a unicorn and then standing there looking dumb when they let it out for fresh air only to find it had established better residence. Don’t get it mixed up, the Eastern Conference is still weak enough that even with the Nets’ making the moves to get back into the playoffs (and yes, they WILL do better than the Knicks), the Knicks will not be ousted from the playoffs. They are still a seven or eight seed, but they will not pretend to compete for anything that matters anytime soon.