CHICAGO, July 18, 2012 – It was late Tuesday night when Jeremy Lin’s phone rang, the caller ID naming New York Knicks general manager Glen Grunwald, and Lin had no reason to believe that the conversation would be anything other than “We’ll see you in the fall.” He had heard endless speculation that the Knicks would match any offer for him up to $1 billion dollars, his heart was in New York, his biggest fans were in New York, and his best basketball was played in New York.
Instead, Grunwald wished him well in his trip to Houston.
So goes the National Basketball Association. You’re only worth as much as your last contract year, unless you were a little too good, in which case your owner won’t feel like putting up with the luxury taxes you’ll cost him. Jeremy Lin was the best thing to happen to Knicks basketball in years, but it seems the Knicks would rather wallow in the same Melo-Amare offensive stagnancy that had them on pace to miss the playoffs last year before SuperLin showed up.
Hopefully Lin realizes how lucky he was that the Knicks decided not to match, regardless of where you want to play or where your loyalties lie. Lin is in a better place as a Houston Rocket than he ever would be as a New York Knick.
In New York, Lin was a phenomenon, and there’s no doubt his rise to become the story of the season wouldn’t have been so prominent had he played in a smaller market. But Lin has a chance to pick up where Yao Ming left off and scoff at the idea of impressing the biggest audience in the nation. Lin’s now going to impress the biggest audience in the world: China.
Since Yao Ming left the league, 1.3 billion people that have had no one to truly root for. They already know and love the colors and logo of the Houston Rockets. In other words, marketing heaven, forget that $25 million contract, that will seem like chump change if he can even sustain the level at which he played towards the end of Linsanity.
Lin’s going to make a fortune, but what about his basketball future? It’s looking good. Simply judging from how he played in his limited appearance last year, Lin’s somebody that likes to take fifteen or so shots per game. Making them is a different question, but taking them is a guarantee.
Now look at the rest of the Knicks roster. Lin ranks a solid third in terms of guys that you want taking fifteen dumb shots per game behind Carmelo and Stoudemire, and the Knicks would eventually begin to suffer if he stole those shots from the two true megastars on a nightly basis. As the Knicks suffer, so too would Lin’s reputation, and things could potentially get very bad very quickly.
Now Houston is a different story. Lin can do whatever he wants, being the franchise’s golden boy. Want to take 25 shots in a half? Go for it, that’s probably the best option the team has to win given the garbage roster that they currently have around him. Want to spend a whole game passing? Why not, it would be adorable: you’re Jeremy Lin, Houston loves you. The Rockets won’t be a contender for at the very least a few more years, so Lin will definitely give the fans something to cheer for until that happens.
Speaking of the Rockets trying to contend, Jeremy Lin is a pick-and-roll point guard. You know who likes those players? Centers like those players. You know who’s a center? Dwight Howard.
See where this is going?
Lin just might be the last piece of the puzzle to get Howard to push for the trade to Houston, and although he’s batting .000 in terms of getting where he wants to be, Houston has the potential to take on a whole lot of cap-unfriendly contracts from the Magic, so the deal really makes sense from all angles.
So for Lin, the worst case scenario is that he has the world’s largest audience cheering from him as he captains a team that he can call his own. Best case scenario, he winds up with the league’s best center and wreaks havoc on the West for years to come with all of China cheering him on his way.
You got lucky, Mr. Lin.
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