The rise of Jeremy Lin has made the young point guard one of the most polarizing players in New York. There seems to be a myriad of ridiculous misconceptions concerning the 23 year old point guard that has made evaluating his contract situation extremely difficult. Lin’s detractors will say that the he is just a backup, that the Knicks are only re-signing him to appeal to Asian Americans, or that Lin will force the Knicks to pay a huge luxury tax bill. These doubts have prompted some to believe that Lin is simply not a good fit for New York. This notion is completely ridiculous, misguided by stereotypes and hypocrisy. Truth be told, the Knicks need Jeremy Lin, the basketball player, more than any of Lin’s critics could possibly imagine.
The Knicks began their off-season with an intelligent approach to the restricted free agency of Jeremy Lin. They decided to wait and let the market set itself. The team is often ridiculed for “bidding against itself”, so why would the team immediately give Lin the maximum they could give him, without knowing for sure he’d demand it? The situation also presented itself as an opportunity for Lin to seek more money than the Knicks could give him, while remaining on the Knicks, as the team could match any offer-sheet he signed.
It was naturally assumed by everyone that the Knicks would match any offer Lin received, and correctly so, but the reason why they are matching it, is when the hypocrisy begins. One would hear it everywhere; the Knicks would resign Jeremy Lin because he attracted an Asian fan base that could make the Knicks money. While that point may be true, that is not the sole reason why the Knicks had to match any offer for Lin: the Knicks had to match because it makes them the best basketball team they can be.
The Knicks are well over the salary cap and will be so for the next 3 years until Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler all become free agents. The new CBA will result in a salary cap system where it will be very difficult for teams over the salary cap to improve their teams. People always seem to forget that Jeremy Lin is actually a good player. The production he put up for the Knicks last year cannot easily be replicated. He averaged 14.6 points and 6.2 assists per game, despite the fact that he played less than 10 minutes in 8 of his 35 games played. In the other 27 games, Lin averaged 18.1 points and 7.6 assists per game.
Steve Nash would have likely been an upgrade to Lin, due to his experience at running an offense, but that ship has sailed. The Knicks made their best attempt at acquiring the future Hall of Famer but came up short. They should be commended for that. After this season, teams over the luxury tax cannot do sign-and-trades. Virtually, the Knicks will only have the taxpayer mid level exception to sign players. What point guard is going to come to the Knicks that can top 15 points and 6 assists per game, let alone 18 and 8, for just $3 million a year?
Lin’s numbers may be a little bloated because the offense was running through him, but who is to say that he can’t be a better, more efficient player in the future? This is where more hypocrisy on the behalf of Lin critics set in. For some reason, people seem to believe that the 23-year-old Jeremy Lin, who was basically a rookie last year, cannot improve. Why is that? Does everyone think that rookie of the year Kyrie Irving cannot improve on the 18.5 points and 5.4 assists per game that he averaged last season (which is strikingly similar to Lin’s averages)? Has anyone ever taken a second to realize that maybe the Houston Rockets offered Lin a contract because they think he is a point guard that can get better, and not because he can draw back the Asian fan base that left with Yao Ming? Newsflash: a player has to be good to draw a fan base, evidenced by the fact that Asians aren’t rushing to see Yi Jianlian.
Not to be mistaken, Lin’s popularity eases the decision for the Knicks, but the contract the Rockets gave Lin would have been matched regardless. The offer sheet is actually an extremely favorable offer sheet. The “poison pill” portion of the deal doesn’t arrive until the third year and the fourth year is a team option (in other words, it’s not guaranteed until the Knicks say so). Ultimately, even if Jeremy Lin does not get any better (which is pretty hard to believe), he is the best option for a Knicks team that has no way to acquire a starting point guard, except via the draft (which is not something to bet on).
Signing Jeremy Lin will put the Knicks deep into the luxury tax, but that really shouldn’t be something Knicks fans should worry about. The Knicks won’t lose any flexibility by signing Lin (or even if they match Landry Fields); it will only hurt James Dolan’s pocket. If Dolan is willing to pay, then he can be my guest. Sure, being deep into the luxury tax sounds a lot like the Isaiah Era thing, but the difference is that the Knicks now have a way out. In 3 years, basically every player on the Knicks will be coming off the books. So before anyone talks about the Knicks overpaying for a player, just remember that it only changes how much extra cash James Dolan has. Once a team already has no flexibility, it doesn’t matter how much a team pays for a player, as long as the owner is willing to pay.
A lot of the time, fans look at a player by his contract when they should be looking at how the player helps their team. Knicks fans are in a situation where they don’t have to worry about their owner being afraid to pay players. In this regard, the Knicks off season had given them players who can play a role and give them even more flexibility. Is that really overpaying? Are the Knicks really overpaying for Lin? No, because the amount that the Knicks are paying Lin is worth not having the point guard debacle that they had last season.