Over the weekend, the Houston Rockets formally signed last year’s New York sensation Jeremy Lin, a restricted free agent, to a very rewarding offer sheet: three years, $25 million dollars. While the contract isn’t necessarily exorbitant in its per-year averages, Rockets GM Daryl Morey structured it so as to be damaging to the Knicks. In the final year of the deal, Lin will make $14.25 million. If the Knicks match Houston’s offer sheet, they’ll have almost their entire salary cap tied up due to the large contracts of their other superstars — and the luxury tax hit of the final year of Lin’s deal would put the total cost to New York that year in the $30 million range.
For these reasons, it’s widely reported that New York is going to let Jeremy Lin go to Houston. The Knicks have until midnight tomorrow to match. In the wake of Houston’s offer, New York went out and acquired former Knick point guard Raymond Felton in a sign-and-trade with the Portland Trailblazers. It would be an odd roster combination if they now retained Lin.
The hubbub around Lin’s free agency has also laid bare personal schisms among the Knicks players. Lin got a lot of publicity and praise for revitalizing a floundering Knicks team last year, and that might have rubbed the big-money New York superstars the wrong way. Before a U.S. Olympic Team practice, Carmelo Anthony called the Rockets’ offer a “ridiculous contract” and refused to comment on whether he thought Lin was worth it. Veteran J. R. Smith, who re-signed with New York for a comparative pittance, told Sports Illustrated that “I think some guys take it personal, because they’ve been doing it for longer and haven’t received any reward for it yet.”
If Jeremy Lin is anywhere close to as good as his talent teased for the 25 games he started last year before getting injured, he’s surely the Knicks’ best option at point guard over Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd. But the unique structure of the contract that Houston has offered him combined with some superstar sour grapes may force the Knicks to let him walk.