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Schmeelk: The Knicks Blame Game

James Dolan (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

James Dolan (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

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By John Schmeelk
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There’s plenty of blame to go around when figuring out who to point the finger at for the loss of Jeremy Lin. It should be no surprise that it all starts at the top.

James Dolan: The buck stops here when it comes to everything with Madison Square Garden. The Knicks owner has always been willing to pay the luxury tax in seasons past but decided to draw the line with Jeremy Lin. Putting it another way, after wasting untold millions of dollars on bad players like Eddie Curry and Jerome James, he decided not to pay a player that could be a starting point guard in this league for a long time.

Considering his past willingness to spend, the assumption has to be that James Dolan decided not to retain Jeremy Lin for neither basketball nor financial reasons. This became personal. When the Rockets and Jeremy Lin redid their offer sheet, it broke whatever code of loyalty James Dolan holds his employees to. Out of anger and a sense of revenge, Dolan let a potential asset walk away for nothing.

This is just one more mistake you can add to an already ridiculous long one that James Dolan has made since owning the Knicks. His one strength as Knicks owner has always been to spend no matter what. That advantage is now gone. As many errors as Dolan has made, it always at least seemed that they were errors of excess. As misguided as his decisions were, the purpose seemed to be to make the team better. That can’t be argued here. Dolan just sabotaged his own franchise’s ability to win basketball games. There’s no judgment here. It’s a fact. How many owners can you say that about?

Jeremy Lin: The player shares plenty of blame in this soap opera as well. If Jeremy Lin really did want to come back to the Knicks, he wouldn’t have signed a deal that the Knicks couldn’t match. No one can blame an undrafted player out of Harvard for getting the most money he can since he might never have another big free agent payday. If he really wanted to return to New York, he should have spoken to the Knicks front office before he signed that revised offer sheet. In the end, it was more important to Jeremy Lin to get his money than to be a Knick. That’s his prerogative, but to say that he was completely surprised that the Knicks wouldn’t match isn’t fair either. He could have easily found that out before he signed that final offer sheet by communicating with the Knicks.

The Knicks front office: The Knicks sealed a number of deals that carried into the bad luxury tax year of 2014-2015: Marcus Camby, Jason Kidd, Steve Novak and eventually Raymond Felton. The value of those four deals is about identical to the amount of money Lin would have gotten in that third poison pill year of his contract. Glen Grunwald did not properly plan for the contingency of a fifteen million dollar balloon payment in the Lin deal, despite the fact that everyone knew it was a possibility. The Knicks could have managed their other contracts much more intelligently to still retain Jeremy Lin. They did not. They also could have offered Lin a contract as soon as free agency opened, and tried to avoid this very situation. Odds are that Lin would not have accepted that initial offer, but no one will ever know. A terrible job by the franchise and front office by the way, of not holding some kind of conference call of press conference to explain themselves.

The NBA: In a weird twist of fate, the NBA ruling giving the Knicks Bird Rights on Steve Novak and Jeremy Lin ended up being a curse, not a blessing. Without those Bird Rights, they wouldn’t have been able to give Steve Novak a four million a year, adding to the potential luxury tax in 2014.  They also would not have been able to give their mid-level exception to Jason Kidd, further adding to their salary in that season. The NBA let the Knicks spend more, and they did to the point they couldn’t afford Jeremy Lin in the third year of his contract.

Carmelo Anthony and the CAA: I only include this here so I can dispel it. I don’t buy the fact that CAA was in Jim Dolan’s ear trying to convince him not to bring Lin back. I also don’t buy that Carmelo Anthony was doing the same thing. There’s a common thought out there that Felton is a much better fit with him than Lin. I don’t get it. Felton likes to shoot and have the ball in his hands as much as Lin. Felton isn’t as good of a shooter or as good in isolation situations to score when Carmelo is on the bench. I don’t think Carmelo cares who is getting him the ball, as long as he gets it.

I’m done writing about Jeremy Lin. Tomorrow I’ll break down the Knicks roster as they head into the 2012 season. I’ll continue to provide coverage of NBA free agency on twitter, and you can follow me at https://twitter.com/#!/Schmeelk