The Wages of Lin – A last call to retain Jeremy Lin.

According to the NY Times Howard Beck, the departure of Jeremy Lin seems all but a certainty. What appeared a near certainty came into doubt over the span of a weekend. A weekend where a matchable four year 30 million contract– that was set to escalate to 9.8 and 10 million per season in years three and four of the contract- became an unwieldy 25 million dollar three year contract laced by the rival Rockets with a 14.8 million uber poisonous pill in year three of the deal. The contract procured by Lin, came in the context of a tit for tat game of cat and mouse between the Knicks, the Rockets and Lin as the organization allowed the market to set a price for Lin. Lin, a prudent Harvard Finance graduate, of coursed secured a bigger pay day than first reported.

For the Knicks who are set to bleed luxury tax payments for each subsequent seasons, Lin’s bloated third year poison pill seems to be even to much for the Knicks to swallow. Off course the procurement of Raymond Felton’s services made Jeremy Lin’s presence in the Garden ever more tenuous.

As a reportedly Linless reality sets in, the macro phenomena that became one of pro sports most marketable viral global feel good stories has taken an about face.  The good vibes and groundbreaking debate of the Jeremy Lin phenomena is reversed into a new series of debates, each one a possible indictment on the state of the Knicks.  Stories celebrating Lin’s rise in the context of the shattering of a racially tinged typecasting of skill/talent based on ethnicity, have turned toward debates over whether the retention or release of Jeremy Lin is indicative of the posture of the Knicks’ franchise going forward.

Depending on the pundit, to match would either signal the persistence of the same old free spending Knicks. For other critics a failure to retain Lin may signal the first step towards fiscal prudence for a franchise well know for excessively unscrupulous acquisitions. For other pundits a failure to match, calls to question the Knicks off season moves to bolster the roster for a title run as just another empty threat by a now penny wise pound foolish front officer. While others may deem a failure to match as another miscue by a franchise that has too often lost ground to the adept maneuverings of rival organizations. All the while Lin gradually exits the grand stage of Madison Square Garden as the clock ticks to 11:59 EST on Tuesday. But as the clock ticks away let us call to question the reasons for why Lin has been allowed to walk.

- Lin’s numbers were inflated.
Many critics stress that Lin’s success took place under then Knicks coach D’Antoni’s watch. The argument goes that Lin would not play within the context of a slower half court oriented system. The type of system, current coach Mike Woodson intends to implement in New York. Well wasn’t about Raymond Felton’s best statistical year. Didn’t it take place in the context of an uptempo open court system designed around Carmelo Anthony’s teammate Amar’e Stoudemire? Felton was a middle of the pack point guard prior to joining Stoudemire in NY during the 2010 offseason and his production declined further as he was traded from NY to Denver to Portland where he flatlined. What does the surge of excitement surrounding he Knicks during the Linsanity era and the pre Melo Stoudemire/Felton era say about the Knicks? They are surely a more dynamic team with the ball in motion. Heck with an uptempo team the pre Melo STAT/Felton Knicks split the season series with Eastern Finalist Miami during the 2010-11 season. That being the case one possible scenario for a back court rotation of Lin, Smith, Felton, Kid (and Shumpert upon his return) could mirror the high pressure up court, 3 point guard headed monster that existed in Denver after the Carmelo Anthony trade. It could signal for the Knicks a myriad of options to continue pressuring opposing teams back court while having the depth and skill to convert turnovers into fast break points– or at least solid possessions.

- Lin’s acquisition would stifle a NY Knicks bid for Chris Paul.
Starting in 2013, Teams over the luxury tax would not be able to take part in sign and trade transactions. The Knicks already over the luxury tax sans Lin would continue to hover above that baseline entering the 2013-14 season. Hence, obtaining CP3 would require that the Knicks take part in a sign and trade during the upcoming season. Without Lin, the Knicks may not have the assets to pitch a valid trade proposal to the Clippers for CP3. This year is the best year to land the coveted Clippers Guard, and it will take all the Knicks decent assets to do so (Lin 5 million, Felton 3 million, Shumpert 2 million, Smith 2 million and possibly Stoudemire). However, any bid for Chris Paul would require that Paul insist on his desire to test the market and head to a promising team like the Knicks. If such a scenario were to materialize, would it not behoove the Knicks to develop Lin’s value under Kidd’s tutelage to be the wrapping on a package to lure Chris Paul.

- The Bucks must stop somewhere on the same old free spending Knicks.
The story has been rehashed very often during the course of the Lin off season drama. Many pundits will liken the Knicks matching of Lin’s three year poison pill offer as just another episode of the same old imprudent free spending Knicks. The ghost of Stephon Marbury, Eddy Curry, Jerome James, Jared Jeffries amongst others are marched out. Meanwhile the cap space hell that prohibited the Knicks from offering multiple max contracts to realize the 2010 plan – hijacked by the cap prudent Miami Heat – are rehashed ad nauseaum. However, despite the luxury tax ramifications of retaining Lin during the poison pill phase of his three year deal valid arguments have been raised about the ability of Lin to recoup the loss. Also a repeat of the cap flustered summer of 2010 is not likely as the current front office has structured most of the current contracts of significance to expire at the end of the 2015-2016 season when several notable free agents will be able to test the market– Marc Gasol, Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo, Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks will surely take a huge cap hit during the 2014-2015 season if they hold onto Lin’s contract. But the options to trade an asset with Lin’s appeal is available to the organization. With Lin the organization is presented with a better option to get out of an onerous contract than having to pay draft picks to expedite contracts like Jared Jeffries’ prior to the 2010 offseason. Moreover, if the Knicks are presenting their fan base with the illusion of loading up for challenging the Heat for a championship run, wouldn’t they be better off bolstering their point guard position as they have just done with the front court– by adding Camby and Thomas? Would anything less than retaining Lin be just another tease by a Knicks organization to trepidatious to put a Lin like exclamation point in their off season championship aspirations?

- Forgive and Forget

Basketball is a business, didn’t Raymond Felton, just forgive the Knicks for using him as a pawn in a much larger drama? Hasn’t the re-acquisition of Marcus Camby signaled that the organization can mend fences? Surely what Lin brings to the table for a Large Fish Organization looking to a global market must be worth mending fences?

Finally, consider the loss of face the Knicks would experience as the rebuilt Brooklyn Nets make an aggressive pitch into the New York area fan base, while the Knicks miss out on an opportunity to extend their global reach while losing a player beloved by many tempermental and often assailed Knicks fans.

The wages of Lin’s value to Madison Square Garden and the Knicks possibly hangs in the balance.

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