Commentary

Knicks must let Jeremy Lin go

Nothing personal -- he's just not worth the money. Let the sanity begin!

Updated: July 17, 2012, 12:16 PM ET
By Stephen A. Smith | ESPNNewYork.com

Jeremy Lin has been all about the money since the day he burst onto Broadway.

Lin was about the Benjamins when Linsanity made the cover of Time magazine. He definitely was overcome by dollar signs when he wouldn't play at "85 percent" for the New York Knicks in the playoffs, and it was all about the bottom line once free agency arrived.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Lin
Debby Wong/US PresswireJeremy Lin won't need to sleep on anyone's couch in Houston.

So now that Lin has confirmed the obvious, signing an offer sheet from the Houston Rockets that would dole out a balloon payment of $14.8 million in the third year of a reported deal worth approximately $25 million, it's time for the Knicks to mirror Lin's behavior.

That means acknowledging Lin's worth, recognizing it's far less than $14.8 million in any season, and cutting ties with him quicker than we can spell s-a-n-i-t-y.

Sources inside the organization tell me that is precisely what the Knicks intend to do.

Here's hoping James Dolan doesn't think about changing anybody's mind.

This is the way it should be. Why everybody's making such a fuss about it boggles the mind.

Nobody's arguing about whether or not Lin can play, because we know anyone who drops 38 on the Los Angeles Lakers, who drops 28-and-14 on the Dallas Mavericks and who averaged more than 14 points and 7 assists in 25 NBA games must bring a little game with him. But that is not the issue here.

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? That's the hit the Knicks would take, when you factor in the luxury tax, in the third year of this deal.

The Knicks are reportedly on the verge of saying "hell no," as one team source told me Saturday night. And if that's indeed the case, kudos to the franchise for making an intelligent decision.

It's meaningless to discuss whether Lin is a potential point guard of the future. Or whether he'll be able to mesh with Carmelo Anthony -- which, by the way, is ridiculous on its face since Melo was the man primarily responsible for convincing former coach Mike D'Antoni to play Lin in the first place.

It's about Jeremy Lin, and what Linsanity has done to the Jeremy Lin the Knicks once knew.

As the regular season waned and Lin was recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, there were numerous occasions when members of the Knicks, on all levels, questioned what was going on. With their backcourt decimated, desperate for some infusion of relief, time and again players, coaches, even Madison Square Garden executives looked over and asked privately, "Do you think he could give us 15 minutes?"

It was before Lin blurted out that he was "85 percent," but long after members of the Knicks realized he didn't want to jeopardize the potential paycheck waiting for him down the line.

Fear of injury is one thing. Fear of getting outplayed and exposed in postseason competition is another. And although folks universally recognized Lin's heart, they also lamented Lin's inner circle of confidants quick to tell him there was no better position to be in than the one he was in at the end of the season.

Fast-forward to now and it's all clear. Jeremy Lin was all about business. He was all about getting paid. And he didn't mind acting like Jerry Maguire ("Show Me The Money," remember?) one bit as one Knicks backcourt body after another came tumbling out of the playoffs.

To be clear, Lin wasn't wrong about this at all. For a point guard with a streaky jump shot, a limited left hand, who's turnover-prone and eons away from being a capable defender, he should be called an astute businessman right now with the deal he swindled out of the Rockets.

But it doesn't change the position he has now put the Knicks in. Pay him now, and he may ultimately cost them more than $30 million later. And this would be around the same time Melo, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler are accounting for a combined $62 million on the Knicks' books.

Lose him? What do you lose?

Lin did not sign an offer sheet with the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets or someone else within the Atlantic Division or the Eastern Conference. In Houston, Lin would be seen twice a season -- unless the Rockets are heading to the NBA Finals, which isn't fathomable in the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, the Knicks just signed Jason Kidd for three years and re-acquired Raymond Felton for three years.

They have experience, depth and happen to be two guards capable of running the show for a team with two stars, in Amare and Melo, who will want the ball when they are called upon to step up and play like stars.

Lin is no scrub. He can play. The Knicks, undoubtedly, will acknowledge this.

But while doing so, they should just make sure to ask two questions of anyone who thinks Lin deserves such an exorbitant amount of money:

What exactly did 25 games prove?

And when did Jeremy Lin -- in Year 3 of this deal -- become the second coming of Chris Paul?

Stephen A. Smith | email

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Stephen A. Smith is a featured columnist for ESPNNewYork.com, a co-host on First Take" and a regular on "SportsCenter."

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