By John Schmeelk
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This is what you’d call irony.
Knicks fans, at least the majority of them, want James Dolan to step in, overrule his basketball people and bring Jeremy Lin back to the Garden. They want their much-maligned owner more involved. Normally, this would be called insanity — and rightfully so. But once, just this once, it’s correct.
Is Lin “worth” the offer sheet he signed with the Rockets? Has he done enough to earn $15 million three years from now? No, he hasn’t. Even worse, with the extra luxury tax penalties, that $15 million salary might actually cost the Knicks closer to $40 million (or more).
But that isn’t the entire story.
The money has absolutely no impact on the Knicks’ cap situation or their flexibility. The team will be able to operate the same way whether or not they match the Rockets’ offer. Re-signing Lin would only impact Dolan’s wallet. Is he willing to write that luxury tax check? That’s the only thing that matter here.
With all the bad money the Knicks owner has thrown around over the years (Jerome James, Eddie Curry, etc), would he really decline to spend now? He’d really get stingy when the team finally has a chance to win? I don’t believe it, which is why I think when push comes to shove, Dolan will match this contract.
Let’s face it: the Garden and Cablevision print money. And Lin would only help them print more of it.
Fans need to understand, it isn’t as though the Knicks could use the money they don’t spend on Lin and sign someone else. There is no benefit to not bringing Lin back. They will lose the person that brought more excitement to the Garden in a decade for absolutely nothing. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated TWICE during Linsanity. He’s a fan favorite and a cash cow. Scott O’Neil told Jamie O’Grady at the LoHud Knicks blog here that television ratings doubled during Linsanity, online page views increased by 1000 percent and 45 percent of all Knicks merchandise sold at MSG belonged to Lin.
The Knicks keep all that money.
Does James Dolan want to give that up?
Dolan also has to understand that this is a very critical time for the Knicks. With the Nets starting in Brooklyn, bringing in Joe Johnson and re-signing Deron Williams, they are a legitimate threat to the Knicks. If New York lets Lin walk for nothing, they will lose oodles of fans to the Nets. We are talking thousands, not hundreds. A player like Lin is what draws casual fans to the Knicks, and Dolan understands that. Is he willing to cede that territory to the Nets? I wouldn’t think so.
The Knicks are also a win-now team, and making a decision for the next two seasons based on a potential tax payment three years from now is counter-intuitive. The fact that Amar’e Stoudemire is now the longest-tenured player on the Knicks is all the evidence needed to show how much things can change in a few years. For example, if Carmelo Anthony doesn’t activate his player option that season, the Knicks are no longer in the bad tax bracket.
It’s only one example out of a million different things that can happen, No one can predict what might happen in 2014-2015. Making a decision today based on something three seasons from now is not wise. Lin or another player can always be moved in a trade to alleviate that payment down the road. It’s another reason Dolan should match the contract.
I don’t know how good Lin is going to be. He might be a flash in the pan, a solid starter or an All-Star. No one knows. But he’s a valuable asset — a young player with a high ceiling. The Knicks are in no position to let an asset simply walk out the door without compensation, especially one as valuable as Lin. It would be a huge mistake, and I think James Dolan will realize that. He has never hesitated to open his wallet before and he won’t now, not when the most popular player on the team is at stake.
Dolan has until 11:59 p.m. EDT on Tuesday to decide whether or not to bring Lin back. My guess is that in the next two days he will see the petitions, hear the public’s outcry and get word of the complaints to the season ticket office about letting Lin go.
Dolan is blind to outside opinion when it comes to basketball matters. Just look at the tenure of Isiah Thomas. But he is not blind to public perception, fan outrage and potentially losing a lot of money.
The city loves Lin and many will hate the Knicks for letting him go. When all is said and done, that’s why Dolan will match and save the Knicks basketball people from themselves.
I’ll continue to provide coverage of NBA free agency on Twitter; follow me @Schmeelk.
Should the Knicks match or let Lin walk? Let Schmeelk know in the comments below…