By John Schmeelk
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After Mitch Lawrence’s article in the New York Daily News yesterday, a lot of Jeremy Lin talk has dominated the Knicks’ scene. Lin, nothing short of a phenomenon last year, is starting to see the dark side of being the man in the spotlight in New York City. The only thing this city likes more than hoisting a star upon its shoulders is tearing that same person right back down. The barbarians are at the gates ready to do just that.
There were only two quotes in the story, from one anonymous league source. That phrasing means that it wasn’t anyone in Lin’s camp. One quote said, “He believes what the Rockets have told him, that the Knicks weren’t as interested as they are.” I’m not saying that Mitch Lawrence is making anything up or being dishonest. I’m just saying that the story doesn’t have a great source or make much sense if you employ a little logic.
It makes no sense that Jeremy Lin would be upset that the Knicks waited for the Rockets to make him an offer before they did. The maximum that the Knicks could have offered Lin before the Rockets’ offer was four years and $24 million, an average of about $6 million a season. The Rockets came back with a three-year guaranteed deal at $19 million, with a potential team-option fourth year that could push the contract to $29 million. Assuming that the Knicks don’t pick up the fourth-year team option, Lin would still have made more money in three seasons under the Rockets’ contract than the maximum amount that the Knicks could have offered him in those same years.
Lin wouldn’t even have accepted the best offer that the Knicks could have made to him on July 1. He would have tested the market because that’s how he would have gotten the most money. Jeremy Lin is a smart guy and he knows that. So does his agent. He is making nearly $20 million dollars over the next three years because of twenty games, and I promise you that he is very happy about it. The implication that the Lawrence story and others like it are trying to make is that Lin is being given too much too fast, and it’s going to his head.
There was little evidence last year that Lin was anything but a great teammate, even during the worst part of the “Linsanity” phenomenon. He always tried to deflect credit after the game and be humble. Other members of the media like to point to Lin’s statement that he was “85 percent” and chose not to play in the playoffs. The common thinking is that a player should play at 85 percent, but it’s easy to say that without context. Asking for a health percentage is an inexact method of judging a player’s health, to say the least. When asked to clarify what he meant by saying he’s 85 percent, Lin said, “I wasn’t 100 percent able to play five on five. I still can’t jump and touch the rim, I still can’t defend. I have yet to play five-on-five or four-on-four.” Do you want that person playing his first game back in a Game Five against the Miami Heat?
Lin made the mistake of saying he was 85 percent healthy, not quite understanding how it would be interpreted. The assumption that some reporters made, however — that he sat out even though he knew he could play effectively — is a leap too far. There’s absolutely no evidence of that other than a throw away “85 percent” line. A big playoff run would have only enhanced Lin’s free-agent value, and he would be making even more money today. If there really was a chance of him making the knee worse, he shouldn’t have played. And that would have been the best thing not only for Jeremy Lin, but for the Knicks as well.
The next controversy brewing is the issue of who the Knicks’ starting point guard will be. Jason Kidd is a legend with a ring, but he is 38 and clearly on the downside. The question of which one heads into camp as the starter doesn’t really matter. For one, it’s more important who finishes games. Second, those two will be playing together a lot, especially early in the season with Iman Shumpert still recovering from knee surgery. Finally, if Lin does flame out, Mike Woodson will bench him. It’s that simple. Worrying about it now doesn’t help anything.
The only thing that Jeremy Lin should be worrying about right now is getting better. The same way he blocked out Linsanity last year is the same way he has to block out the people trying to tear him down this season. There are two extremes forming, as of now. The first views Lin as the team’s best player and a future star. I don’t buy that. The other views him as a flash in the pan that is barely a starting-caliber guard in the league. I don’t buy that either. I’m no Jeremy Lin fanboy. I was ready to deal him for Steve Nash. I stand firmly in the middle ground that he’s a solid starting-caliber NBA point guard. He still has plenty to prove, not the least of which is staying healthy and succeeding outside of Mike D’Antoni’s system. But let’s not try to destroy him before he even has a chance to get started.
- Here are a couple other nuggets on the Knicks’ free-agent acquisitions. First I’ll hit Pablo Prigioni, a veteran point guard from Europe who is 35, but should still give the Knicks some value. Watching some highlights on YouTube, he certainly knows how to run the pick-and-roll. He has some size at six-foot-three, and at the very least he is another guy for Jeremy Lin to learn from.
- Then you have James “Flight” White, who has been playing overseas. The first thing that everyone says about him is “great athlete”. That tells me that he should be able to defend and rebound well at both the two and three. The Knicks need as many perimeter defenders as possible to deal with the Miami Heat, and if he can help them there then the signing will be a success.
I’ll continue to provide coverage of NBA free agency on Twitter, and you can follow me here.
What are your predictions for Jeremy Lin next season after his taste of success last year? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…