Jeremy Lin is officially a Houston Rocket. Now, we find out whether "Linsanity" can survive Texas heat.
The Knicks confirmed on Tuesday that they would not match the three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet Lin signed with the Houston Rockets on Friday. The club declined to comment on the stunning development while Lin took to Twitter to say, "Extremely excited and honored to be a Houston Rocket again."
The decision was both financial and emotional since Garden Chairman James Dolan was upset over Lin's decision to restructure his deal with Houston last week to include a third year salary of $14.9 million. Dolan, according to sources, felt he was deceived by the 23-year-old Lin.
"Much love and thankfulness to the Knicks and New York for your support this past year," Lin said on Twitter. "Easily the best year of my life. #ForeverGratful."
Of course, team officials privately felt that Lin's actions over the past few weeks were anything but grateful. They were upset that Lin hired a publicist without their consent and were livid that the second year point guard out of Harvard went back to the Rockets for more money.
As recently as last week, all signs pointed to Lin returning with head coach Mike Woodson even saying that Lin would be his starting point guard and that newly acquired Jason Kidd would serve as the back-up.
But in Lin's original deal with Houston he was to receive $9.8 million in the third year. With the Knicks publicly stating their intentions to match the offer, Lin and his representatives went back to the Rockets to restructure the contract.
That third-year balloon payment of $14.9 million could cost the Knicks another $35 million or more in luxury tax penalties. Dolan has a history of overpaying his players and has never shied away from the luxury tax before.
But in this case, Dolan felt betrayed by Lin for going back to Houston to re-work the contract. After all, the Knicks acquired Lin in December after Lin was released by both Golden State and Houston.
When Lin finally got a chance to play in early February, he performed well in Mike D'Antoni's system and instantly became a cultural phenomenon. Lin instant popularity and worldwide appeal was something that had not been seen before in the NBA.
He was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in back-to-back weeks and became the most talked about player at the All Star Game in February even though he was only chosen for the rookie/sophomore game.
The feeling inside the organization is that the Knicks gave Lin a chance, helped to create his brand only to have him negotiate a deal that made it cost prohibitive to keep him.
There are other factors, of course. When D'Antoni resigned and was replaced by Mike Woodson, Lin's role was changed slightly as the Knicks became more of an isolation team featuring Carmelo Anthony.
Lin's breakthrough season ended in late March and after 35 games and 25 starts when he suffered a torn meniscus and required left knee surgery. He was ruled out for the playoffs but after Game 1 hinted that he might return. On the morning of Game 5, Lin raised eyebrows by claiming he couldn't play because he was only 85% healthy.
There was also a sense that some players may have resented Lin's instant fame. Two days ago, Anthony called the terms of Lin's contract ridiculous. The following day, Anthony said he hoped Lin would return. Another Knick, J.R. Smith, hinted that if Lin were to return his deal with the Knicks could potentially create unrest in the locker room.
The Knicks began moving on from Lin over on Saturday, one day after Lin signed the offer sheet with Houston. The Knicks re-acquired point guard Raymond Felton in a sign-and-trade with the Portland Trail Blazers. Before the trade was announced, Felton told a South Carolina TV station that he was coming back to the Knicks and that the deal with Lin was off.
A person close to Felton maintains that Felton never would have returned to the Knicks if Lin were re-signing. The Knicks have three point guards under contract, Kidd, Felton and Pablo Prigioni.
Last season, they began the season with Toney Douglas, Baron Davis and Mike Bibby under contract. A week later, Lin was signed.
All four are gone but only one captured the imagination of Knick fans, who signed a petition this week to keep him in New York. No one ever could have predicted that Lin would have made this much of an impact in just a few short months in New York.
Fewer still ever would have predicted that his exit would be more stunning than his arrival.
Extremely excited and honored to be a Houston Rocket again!! #RedNation— Jeremy Lin (@JLin7) July 18, 2012
Much love and thankfulness to the Knicks and New York for your support this past year...easily the best year of my life #ForeverGrateful— Jeremy Lin (@JLin7) July 18, 2012