Knicks Decide Not to Keep Jeremy Lin

PHOTO: New York Knicks Jeremy Lin drives to the basket during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game New Jersey Nets on Feb. 4, 2012, at Madison Square Garden in New York.Bill Kostroun/AP Photo
New York Knicks' Jeremy Lin drives to the basket during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game New Jersey Nets on Feb. 4, 2012, at Madison Square Garden in New York.

The global phenomenon known as Linsanity has ended almost as suddenly as it began.

Jeremy Lin, the undrafted, unheralded, Harvard-educated former bench warmer who electrified the basketball world by leading the New York Knicks to a seven-game winning streak that saved their season, is moving on.

Lin became a member of the Houston Rockets tonight when the Knicks refused to match Houston's stunning three-year, $25.1 million offer to the 23-year-old point guard.

The Knicks confirmed that they would not match the Rockets' offer for the restricted free agent about an hour before the 11:59 p.m. deadline for the team to make a decision.

A short time after the Knicks decision, Lin posted this message on Twitter, "Extremely excited and honored to be a Houston Rocket again!! #RedNation." Lin then tweeted a goodbye message to Knick fans, "Much love and thankfulness to the Knicks and New York for your support this year... Easily the best year of my life. #ForeverGrateful."

The Knicks had said they wanted to keep Lin, whose basketball rags-to-riches story helped to sell out Madison Square Garden, lift ratings on the MSG network and send Jeremy Lin jerseys and T-shirts flying off the shelves. Everyone expected that he would return in a Knicks uniform next season.

But Houston's contract offer proved just too expensive, even for the notoriously free-spending Knicks.

It contained a balloon payment of $14.98 million in the third and final year that could have cost the Knicks tens of millions of dollars in penalties under the NBA's new salary cap system.

Marc Ganis, founder and president of SportsCorp, a Chicago-based sports business consulting firm, said Houston's "poison pill had its intended effect."

"It would have been enormously difficult for the Knicks to swallow, and obviously, they wouldn't."

Long-suffering Knicks fans had been divided and in agony over what the team should do. Some agreed with the assessment of the Knicks' marquee star, Carmelo Anthony, who had called Houston's offer "ridiculous."

Others said Lin should be signed at any cost, especially given the team's deep pockets. They could not forget those heady days in February when Lin joined the lineup and ignited an amazing turnaround in the team's play, averaging 21 points and 8.4 assists a game.

The NBA's first American-born player of Taiwanese or Chinese descent, Lin went from sleeping on a teammate's couch to becoming a household name. He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Saturday Night Live devoted a skit to him.

"Knicks fans took to this player, they raised him to heights beyond anything he might have imagined, they followed his every move and they supported him. And now, what do they get in return? They should be ticked off," Ganis said.

Yet, Ganis said it is hard to blame the Knicks for not matching Houston's offer because of that poison pill.

"In some ways Lin is untested, his body did not hold up to the rigors of even half a season and he was a different player after (Coach Mike) D'Antoni resigned" and was replaced by Mike Woodson, Ganis said.

Ganis said Houston's offer – though derided by other teams – made a certain financial sense. The Rockets still have an enormous following among Asian basketball fans because the great Chinese center Yao Ming played there, he said.

"They are one of the few teams in a position to market Jeremy Lin properly and make a lot of money from it," Ganis said.