Even as the good vibes were flowing throughout New York City today with the news that the Knicks may have taken the lead in the Steve Nash sweepstakes, there is always something else that kicks the Knicks directly in the stomach.
According to a report by The New York Post, the Houston Rockets are prepared to offer free agent point guard Jeremy Lin a four-year, $30 million contract. The reported deal would pay Lin an annual salary of $5 million for the first two seasons, then escalate to $10 million for the final two years of the contract.
It is believed that the maximum offer the Knicks can counter with to Jeremy Lin is a four-year, $24.5 million contract.
In 35 games last year with the Knicks, Lin averaged 14.6 points and 6.2 assists, going from end of the bench afterthought to rising star point guard inserted into the starting line-up. Lin was actually under team control of the Rockets last season before the team was forced to cut him due to having too many active players on their roster after their botched attempt of acquiring Pau Gasol from the Lakers in the Chris Paul three-team deal.
First things first, wow. This is a kick to the gut. A lot of people in the media and around the team have figured they will be able to re-sign Lin and that it won’t be that big of a deal or difficult. Then, something like this happens and it reminds us all how unpredictable the NBA free agency process can all be.
Even though I truly believe the Knicks need to re-sign Lin and allow him to continue his development with this nucleus, $40 million is a lot of money to give a player that has only started 25 games in his career. That’s a lot of eggs to put into the “Lin is a lock to be this productive” basket.
This situation is very different from the Landry Fields contract offer from Toronto. There is no conceivable scenario where the Knicks view Fields as a $20 million player over the next three years. That’s not to say Fields won’t be a very good player during that time period. He very well could, and should, be. He’s a rebounding two-guard with the ability to score 10-15 points a night, both very valuable skills, especially if his role isn’t as a starter. However, nobody sees that as being enough to justify the kind of money the Raptors threw at him. And, the only reason Fields got that kind of money was a plan by the Toronto front office to limit the Knicks ability to acquire Steve Nash in a sign-and-trade.
With Lin, its a completely different animal. I wouldn’t go so far to say the Knicks need to re-sign Jeremy Lin, especially if they acquire Nash. But, if they don’t acquire Nash, then the Knicks are in possibly a worse situation than last year. It will force this team to throw more money at Raymond Felton that they’re probably uncomfortable with, but he’ll be the last reasonable free agent point guard that can start left on the market. Andre Miller re-upped in Denver. If they lose Lin to the Rockets and Nash to another team, they’re in serious trouble. Enough trouble that they could finish next year worse than the 7th seed they got this season.
I’m not positive the Knicks have the flexibility to lock up Lin for the same figures the Rockets are offering, but they might have to swallow this vicious poison pill, just to make sure they have someone starting for them at the point guard position.