Today is the last day left for Knicks Owner James Dolan to come to his senses and sign Jeremy Lin. It is estimated that Lin has created nearly $600 million dollars in additional revenue for Madison Square Garden since his first start last year. Are we really to believe that a 3-year 25 million dollar contract and hefty 3rd year luxury tax is a problem for Dolan and his drunken sailor spending ways?
The Knicks have until at least midnight tonight to match the Houston Rockets contract offer which includes a 3rd year “poison pill” balloon payment of 14.8 million. The cost to Knicks can rise anywhere from $30 to 58 million when factoring in the NBA’s new luxury tax. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith states:
“The issue is simple in that it can be reduced to one question: Is Jeremy Lin worth more than $30 million for any one season on any team’s salary cap?”
Smith and many others are asking the wrong question. Unless you are personally footing the bill or are deeply concerned over James Dolan making ends meet, the only question is:
Will the Knicks be better off with or without Lin on the team?
That is the only question.
With the recent acquisitions of elder statesmen Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby, the Knicks have already clearly decided to “win now”. Since the Knicks are already over the salary cap, Lin does not affect cap “flexibility” or future Knick dreams of acquiring Chris Paul. Should Lin continue to play well, he might actually enhance such a possibility. Nor do the Knicks currently have a starting shooting guard. More compelling reasons to sign Lin can be found by Post-Up Prince from Knick’s Fanatics Blog and ESPN’s Ian O’Conner.
But instead of signing Lin, we get distractions about his contract and a sudden “Save James Dolan” movement. But is Lin’s contract really outrageous?
Lin will average about 8.5 million a year with the new 3-year contract. He will make about the same yearly salary as Rodney Stuckey, Mo Williams, Thaddeus Young, Ty Thomas, Beno Udrich, Brendan Haywood, and Luis Scola. However, none of them will bring back their team millions in marketing revenue. In purely American terms of supply and demand, it can be argued that Lin is the most underpaid athlete in sports.
In strictly basketball terms, will Lin be overpaid given his thin resume?: Definitely. Is this outrageous? No. Rashard Lewis or Gilbert Arenas making 20 million last year is outrageous. What’s more instructive is the contract a young Arenas signed in 2003 with the Washington Wizards.
Despite only two seasons and one full season as starter for Golden State, Arenas’ contract was more than double Lin’s size (six years and $60 million). Arena’s stats (18 points; 6.3 assists; 43% shooting) and style (quick first step; fearlessness and reckless with ball) had similarities to Lin’s 26 game stretch as a starter. Arenas also benefitted from a peculiar contractual loophole, but unlike the Knicks, Golden State was not allowed to match the offer.
Lin’s salary situation is not that new or crazy. We are simply talking about one single year that James Dolan can afford with Lin’s marketing help.
If it was any NBA team besides the Knicks and their deep pockets, there would be legitimate reasons to pass on this investment. His starting resume is only 26 games long, he is turnover-prone, and there are questions about adjusting defenses. While Lin must improve these areas, his skills are real. You simply do not teach his first step, his court vision, and his balance after getting hit in the lane is uncanny.
Will Lin turn out to be a quality backup, or will he reach a ceiling that looks like Tony Parker? In either event, he will make the Knicks a better team.
Here are some immediate ways:
- No Starting Shooting Guard: The Knicks open next season without a starting two guard. Iman Shumpert is out for months, and the gunning JR Smith will only help this team by coming off the bench. Between Lin, Raymond Felton, and Jason Kidd, the Knicks could run a double point-guard back court that is better than any current option. Lin solves our shooting guard problem.
- Guard Insurance: Lin provides insurance should Shumpert not return 100% from his ACL injury, should Felton coming in overweight, or should Kidd’s age turning him into Mike Bibby overnight.
- Playoff Match-Ups: The playoffs are all about matchups, and more versatility and skill-sets will help that playoff drive. Lin is an asset that may have trouble with Miami’s defense
- Enhancing Novak and Smith: Both Steve Novak and JR Smith thrived off Lin’s penetration and the open shots he creates. Both men were useless in last year’s playoffs with a hand in their face. Kidd cannot penetrate, and Felton is not as good a penetrator, and his weight is in question
Finally, it must be said that all point guards – even future Hall of Famers – have major deficiencies. Steve Nash can’t defend worth a lick, and Jason Kidd has shot only 40% his entire career. The scrutiny of Lin’s flaws has been tremendous: It can be about a single awful game on tired legs against Miami (note: James Harden was shut down multiple games in the Finals); the idea that his turnovers will never decrease; or the notion that he will never get better at going to his left. Some see upside while others see downside.
Given Lin’s history of being underestimated, the question must be asked: Is Jeremy Lin still being stereotyped?
As an Asian-American playing in the NBA, is he receiving extra doubt and scrutiny the way African-American Quarterbacks still regularly receive in the NFL?
The unrecruited Lin has proven his college scouts wrong. The undrafted Lin has also proven NBA scouts wrong. Did the stereotypes that prevented Lin’s NBA opportunities in the first place suddenly disappear from everyone’s sub-consciousness? That is hard to believe. As Knicks brass huddle up to make a decision today, is there an extra set of doubts unfairly creeping in? Let’s hope not.
Ultimately, we are talking about one single bad year of a contract for a man who has already created more than 600 million in revenue. Many are calling that contract year a “poisin pill”. On Wall Street, they call it a holiday bonus.
Now let James Dolan ante-up, so we can see that next card.
Whether the card shows a future All-star or future back-up, the Knicks will be better.
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