This would have been such an obvious decision in February.
Jeremy Lin was Kobe Bryant’s equal on the court and at the souvenir stand during a mesmerizing stretch that Commissioner David Stern said he had “never quite seen anything like.”
No way the New York Knicks were letting Lin get away when he was the biggest thing in basketball.
Things are different now.
Lin no longer plays for a coach whose offense seems designed for him. He’s coming off knee surgery and would come at a monstrous cost – thanks to an offer sheet from the Houston Rockets he signed.
What once would have been an easy answer now creates so many questions.
Do the Knicks want Lin back? Does Lin want to come back? When will it be resolved?
The last one should be easiest, but this being the Knicks, it isn’t exactly. Teams have three days to match an offer sheet for their restricted free agents, so the Rockets believe the clock expires at 11:59 tonight.
Except the Knicks have never confirmed whether they received the offer sheet from the Rockets on Saturday, so it’s possible they have a different deadline in mind, which could even lead to some kind of dispute or protest.
The contract is for three years and about $25 million, an enormous figure for someone who has made 25 starts.
After paying Lin about $5 million per year the first two seasons, it balloons to nearly $15 million in the final year but would cost the Knicks more than twice that
in luxury tax payments under harsher penalties in the new collective bargaining agreement.
The terms of the original offer Lin agreed to were four years and about $28 million, creating speculation that he went back to the Rockets and asked for something that would be tougher for the Knicks to match.
A number of fans want them to do it anyway, with more than 5,000 signing an online petition asking the Knicks to keep him.
The Knicks made a veteran point guard a top priority in free agency, missing out on Steve Nash but signing Jason Kidd. Then they agreed to a sign-and-trade with Portland to bring Raymond Felton back to New York in a deal completed Monday.
None brings the marketing potential of Lin. That gives Houston plenty of reason to want him back.
The Rockets had Lin on their roster during the preseason before waiving him, with two point guards ahead of him on the depth chart and an open roster spot needed to add a big man.
It wasn’t long before they wished they’d done differently, general manager Daryl Morey writing on Twitter during Lin’s dazzling stretch, when he averaged 24.6 points and 9.2 assists in 10 games from Feb. 4-20, that cutting Lin was a mistake.