- Last Updated: 9:53 AM, July 19, 2012
- Posted: 2:10 AM, July 19, 2012
Jeremy Lin did not want to leave New York.
But now, after the Knicks declined to match the Rockets’ 3-year, $25.1 million offer sheet with its virulent third-year luxury-tax implications, Lin acknowledged the Knicks were his first choice.
“Honestly, I preferred New York,” Lin told Sports Illustrated. “But my main goal in free agency was to go to a team that had plans for me and wanted me. I wanted to have fun playing basketball.”
Later in the interview, Lin expressed his appreciation for Knicks fans.
“I love the New York fans to death,” he told SI.com. “That’s the biggest reason why I wanted to return to New York. The way they embraced me, the way they supported us this past season, was better than anything I’ve ever seen or experienced. I’ll go to my grave saying that. What New York did for me was unbelievable. I wanted to play in front of those fans for the rest of my career.”
Chalk that up under moot points.
Whether the reason was financial or emotional or equal parts, the Knicks were angered when Lin went back to the Rockets after giving him assurances an initial offer sheet proposal — four years, $28.9 million — would be matched. The Rockets reworked the deal and the Knicks were ticked. Coach Mike Woodson had anointed Lin his starter. His running mate, Jason Kidd, was in place. Then it blew up. The Knicks declined to match Tuesday night.
Lin released an official statement through the Rockets yesterday.
“I loved this past year with the Knicks and truly appreciate the opportunity that New York gave me. The way the fans fully embraced me and our team was something I’ll always cherish forever. It was an extraordinary and unforgettable time that was easily the best year of my life,” said Lin, making points Knicks brass and ownership no doubt remembered in making a who’s-he guy into an international sensation.
“Now I am excited to be back with the Rockets,” Lin said of the team that whacked him last preseason. “They made a very compelling pitch in terms of what I could bring to the team and for the city. I am also impressed with Mr. [owner Les] Alexander and the management’s commitment to improving the team. I’m excited about contributing to the Rockets’ winning tradition and competing with my new teammates.”
And so “Linsanity,” born in a Feb. 4 game coming off the bench against the Nets, fostered on friends’ and relatives’ couches, marketed world-wide through merchandise sales, now has a new home in Houston.
“I was surprised, really,” said one rival general manager. “Now, if it was a financial decision, they could have avoided it. They signed [Marcus] Camby, [Jason] Kidd and Steve Novak to three-year deals. Give those guys two years each and that would have covered Lin’s third year.
“Figure it like when you’re drafting. You may have a great point guard. But if there is another great point guard in the draft, you still go with talent over need. You take the talent and then figure it out later.”
An opposing head coach took the opposite view, supporting the Knicks’ decision.
“I thought they made a great bounce-back with Raymond Felton for them — Raymond Felton is a good player,” the coach said. “Jeremy Lin is a good player, but it is such a very small sample, what like 25 games? And it’s one of the things about the post-new-CBA world. Big-market teams just can’t buy a roster, although the Brooklyn Nets are trying.
“Houston is taking a risk, but it’s not as huge as the one New York would have taken,” the coach continued. “Houston is predominantly pick-and-roll. New York is isolation with Carmelo [Anthony’s] ability, and I don’t know how well that would have gone.”
And a Western Conference executive agreed with the Knicks’ decision in a stronger way, calling the move “a no-brainer” because of the small sample of work.