Monday, July 16, 2012
Lin's uncertain future -- and the Knicks'
By Jared Zwerling
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Patrick Ewing doesn't know what the Knicks are going to do about Jeremy Lin. He's also not all in on Lin being a starting point guard just yet.
"I don't know. I was very happy for him, but he only played 25 games, so it's very hard to say," he told ESPN New York on Sunday during a USA Basketball and U.S. Military sports clinic for kids at George Washington University. "You wish him luck, he's a nice kid, he's very personable. I had an opportunity to meet him and talk to him and I just wish him the best."
Ewing was more positive about the Knicks landing Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby, his former teammate from 1998 to 2002.
"I played with Marcus and he had some great years in New York, and Jason Kidd is a fantastic player," Ewing said. "Both those guys have had outstanding careers."
The Knicks have until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. ET to decide whether or not they're going to accept the Rockets' three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet for Lin. While there appears to be a split from insiders on what the Knicks will ultimately do, there is overwhelming surprise and already a petition going around reflecting Lin's departure to Houston.
From a basketball standpoint, the Knicks may feel Lin needs another season or two to develop, but envision Raymond Felton (the starter) and Jason Kidd (the backup) providing more of an immediate impact at point guard. By signing Camby and Kidd, with their Big Three of Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler in place, the Knicks are clearly in win-now mode.
On the flip side, the Knicks would have depth at point guard, which is especially important with a 39-year-old on the roster (Kidd). It's also the most important position in the NBA, and Lin was consistent in 25 starts last season, averaging 18.2 points, 7.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. He was also more efficient last season than Felton in pick-and-rolls, isolation and jumpers off the dribble, and he was more efficient on defense.
In addition, Mike Woodson would have the benefit of interchanging Lin, Kidd and Felton at times in the backcourt. Woodson is not a coach who gets caught up in strict lineup positions. He's more focused on the positions players need to be on the court to score and make plays utilizing their skills sets.
However, one source familiar with the Knicks' free-agency plans said that Felton's arrival doesn't signal a point-guard-heavy lineup (Lin is 6-3, Kidd is 6-4 and Felton is 6-1). Not only is Felton the shortest, but he's more of a floor general and seasoned enough to get starter's minutes. If they really wanted a combo guard, while keeping Lin, they could've focused on finalizing a sign-and-trade to get one, the source said.
From a financial standpoint, the Knicks knew what they were in for when Lin tested free agency. After becoming a household name in February and March during the trademarked Linsanity, he was given the opportunity to set his own price, especially being a restricted free agent. That status gives a player leverage during negotiations.
Overall, if the Knicks really want Lin back, there's going to be a price to pay. That amount will be $14.8 million in the third year of his contract, which would lock up the Knicks in $75 million in four players -- Lin, Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler -- in 2014-15. Potentially, the Knicks could go $40 million or more over the salary cap, which won't be determined until the offseason of 2014.
But that's two years from now. For now, are the Knicks really that concerned about the potential for significant luxury tax ramifications? They were going to pay something anyway, with Lin or not. It seems too late in the free-agency process for this to be the biggest issue.
Plus, Lin is a marketing dream, and that's what James Dolan is mostly about. (Case in point: trading for Anthony in Feb. 2011.) And while we're at it, talking about the savvy ways of Knicks' brass, Grunwald saw something in Lin that not many did not, claiming him off waivers in December. That's why this won't be an easy decision for Grunwald, either way, and that's why this could take the entire three-day matching period.
If Lin leaves, don't rule out the possibility that another factor(s) contributed to what happened. There could be more to it than basketball and financial reasons -- perhaps something internally? -- because GM Glen Grunwald and the Knicks are always tight-lipped. We won't know until we really know.