Knicks Completely Blew It on Jeremy Lin Despite Attempts to Reframe Move as Financial Austerity

Knicks Completely Blew It on Jeremy Lin Despite Attempts to Reframe Move as Financial AusteritySome of the New York Knicks' most stalwart apologists will bring up one number in trying to defend the organization's decision not to re-sign Jeremy Lin: $14.8 million.

That amount is how much Lin would have cost the Knicks in year three of his new deal, had the Knicks matched the Rockets' three-year, $25 million offer sheet Tuesday night. That amount, which would have eclipsed Tyson Chandler's salary as the third-highest on the team, would have saddled the Knicks with a hefty luxury tax bill that some have estimated at nearly $30 million. The Knicks, these apologists will argue, were merely exercising fiscal restraint.

Do not listen to them.

"You have to blame Jeremy Lin at least for a little of the way this went down," a source close to Knicks management was quoted as saying by ESPN's Ian O'Connor. "LeBron James and Dwyane Wade worked together with Pat Riley to construct a deal to end up in Miami, and here it looked like Lin was trying to construct a deal to end up in Houston."

No. Lin is headed to Houston because the Knicks' handling of last season's savior was atrocious. For anyone close to Knicks management to try to reframe the narrative by claiming Lin was the one who refused to compromise is disingenuous beyond comprehension.

The Knicks could have begun to "work with" Lin by offering him the maximum four-year, $24 million deal on the very first day of free agency. Instead, they issued an implicit challenge to the player who revitalized interest in the blue and orange: Try to find a better deal out there from another team — we dare you.

What Lin found was a suitor who recognized what the Knicks did not, that Lin is more than a promising 23-year-old point guard who is humble to a fault and possesses one of the coolest Cinderella backstories in sports. He became a global phenomenon for 26 games last season and has a chance to develop into an international icon. And the jersey that will be broadcast around the world will belong to the Rockets.

The Rockets initially offered Lin a four-year, $28.8 million deal, according to multiple reports, but they restructured that to a three-year, $25 million deal. The first two years featured a roughly $5 million rate worthy of Ocean State Job Lot, but that third year at $14.8 million was the kicker. The third-year salary was designed to deter the Knicks from matching, yet nobody really expected the Knicks not to match. Not Lin. Not Knicks coach Mike Woodson. Possibly not even the Rockets.

The Knicks put themselves in that unenviable position. They had an opportunity to establish the baseline at four years and $24 million, but their arrogance cost them that advantage. The baseline was therefore set by Lin and the Rockets, who inadvertently created a built-in excuse for the Knicks not to match.

It's a financial decision, the Knicks might shout, but anyone familiar with the NBA's complex economic system knows better. In that hypothetical third year, the Knicks would have had a sea of expiring deals, including Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Lin, as well as early termination clauses for Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. Any of those players would be tradeable to find some salary cap relief.

As NBA.com's Steve Aschburner amusingly and astutely tweeted in light of the sizable sums already being paid to Anthony, Stoudemire and company, "blaming Jeremy Lin for [luxury] tax issues in NY [is like] six fat guys in elevator ripping skinny seventh guy who boards last, trips buzzer." Lin did not create the Knicks' salary cap crunch. The Knicks did, over and over, with their fiscally irresponsible moves for the last several years leading up to this offseason.

That $14.8 million would have been a small price to pay for the future of the franchise and the goodwill of the fans. The Knicks' newfound frugality will end up costing them far more than that.

Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame or send it here.

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