Commentary

N.Y. couldn't wait for Lin to be great

If Knicks remain mired in mediocrity, departure of J-Lin will be the last reason why

Updated: July 19, 2012, 1:49 PM ET
By Stephen A. Smith | ESPNNewYork.com

In the end, it wasn't about a billionaire whining over losing potential millions, petulance getting the best of everyone or James Dolan and the rest of the New York Knicks exhibiting the same alarming level of ineptitude that has made the franchise a laughingstock for years.

It was about Jeremy Lin not seeing the forest for the trees, salivating over green instead of orange and blue -- choosing to play for a team on a track to nowhere instead of continuing to help his former team position itself for championship contention.

All the while asking the Knicks to bet on his development instead of exercising the urgency of NOW!

Stop the tears, please. Just stop it. And if you can't, get some tissue. But whatever it takes, let's stop bloviating about how the Knicks blew up their chance at a championship just because they let go of a dude who was a breath removed from playing in the NBA's D-League.

Jeremy Lin is a slightly above average player -- one who excels outside of conventional offenses, primarily when he's allowed to run around like a chicken with its head cut off, and without the responsibility of being a floor general.

He is not Chris Paul. He is not Deron Williams, Derrick Rose or Rajon Rondo. He's no Tony Parker or Russell Westbrook, either. Until further notice, he doesn't even measure up to Mike Conley.

As for anyone who thinks Lin's departure is a reason to lament the state of a team that now has Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton to pair with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, here's some news for you:

Lin's departure won't be the problem if the Knicks continue to find themselves mired in mediocrity. Not with the likes of Melo, Amare, Kidd and Felton still on the squad.

Jeremy Lin
Chris Trotman/Getty ImagesJeremy Lin, who back-doored the Knicks in the 11th hour, is leaving New York for Houston.

Lost in all this Linsanity is the reality that the Knicks weren't entirely sure about Jeremy Lin -- at least not as much as Lin believed they were. The kid who spent three weeks averaging about 25 points per game and whose outward humility rivaled only that of Tim Tebow was also the dude who undeferentially spewed, "We gotta learn to play together," upon Anthony's return, instead of acknowledging he was the one who needed to learn to play with Melo.

It was Lin who then sauntered around the rest of the season acting as if he'd already accomplished all that was required, as if he was the face of the franchise and the Knicks were supposed to feel privileged to have him on board.

"You have to blame Jeremy Lin at least for a little of the way this went down," a source close to Knicks management told ESPNNewYork.com's Ian O'Connor of Lin's departure to the Houston Rockets for a three-year, $25.1 million deal. "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."

Which is really the point in all this.

Regardless of how boneheaded Dolan appears in reacting to Lin going out and getting what Melo later termed a "ridiculous" deal from Houston, one has to surmise Dolan felt somewhat betrayed and was willing to move forward, Linsanity be damned.

Now it's up to Melo, Amare and crew to make sure he doesn't rue the day he made such a decision.

Regardless of Melo's obvious skills, his eight first-round exits in nine playoff appearances aren't cutting it anymore. And his career 24.7 scoring average is no longer good enough cover. Nearly the same can be said for Stoudemire, offensively formidable when healthy, whose $100 million contract is supposed to spell championship contention and very little else.

In Felton's case, let's eliminate the doughnuts, cheesburgers, steak, fries and anything else that has him looking pudgy these days. With Lin gone and with Felton only 27 years of age, he has a chance to be the point guard of the future for the Knicks instead of a scapegoat for why Lin is no longer in New York.

As for Kidd, just his floor leadership, spanning approximately 20 to 25 minutes per game -- with no more arrests on charges of driving while intoxicated -- is all that's required from him. Basketball fans know what the 39-year-old can do.

As for Lin, no one needs to hear any more about how he can play. How he'll be missed. How the Knicks made a mistake by letting him go.

If Lin wanted to stay badly enough, he would not have ticked off a billionaire owner who previously had told him, "We have plans for you," by back-dooring him in the 11th hour.

Lin did it anyway, and now he's gone. Melo, Amare, Felton and Kidd are here. If Iman Shumpert comes back healthy and Tyson Chandler comes back from the Olympics with any semblance of a post game, the Knicks will be a team to be reckoned with.

Then nobody will care that Lin is gone or about the multitude of reasons why.

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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