Over his brilliant six-week stretch, Lin looked great, but paying him $25 million over three years and giving him the minutes, time and patience he needed to develop, in hindsight, would have been a major risk.
The Knicks decided not to take it, and the early returns say it was a smart move.
One thing that should be mentioned is that the Knicks were never in a position where they had to choose between Lin, Felton, or Kidd. In theory, the Knicks could have had all three of them. But again, Lin would have had needed minutes. It’s very possible that Kidd would have ended up being the third point guard and would have been a better version of Pablo Prigioni, but if you have to choose being playing two of those three point guards, you play Felton and Kidd.
Imagine the headlines had Dolan matched the Lin offer and paid him more than $5 million this season—more than both Felton and Kidd—and Lin played only spot minutes.
It would have been a distraction that a team hoping to contend for an NBA title (they are , after all, constructed in such a way to match up with Miami) wouldn’t have needed. And whether they want to admit it or not, other NBA players—including some of those in the Knicks locker room—felt that Lin wasn’t deserving of the media attention or the rich payday he received from the Rockets.
J.R. Smith admitted as much and Anthony famously called Lin’s financial offer from the Rockets “ridiculous.” But we’ve seen other NBA players take their frustrations out on Lin on the court. Deron Williams dropped 38 points on him and afterward told reporters that “I had this one circled… Linsanity started on me.”
In the last game before the 2012 All-Star break, the Miami Heat prepared for Lin and embarrassed him on the court, forcing him into committing eight turnovers in a game in which Lin shot just 1-for-11.
Against Lin, Portland rookie Damian Lillard is averaging 23.5 points, 7.1 assists and 5.5 rebounds against the Rockets, all while shooting 51.5 percent from the field. Most importantly, Lillard’s team won both games.
And even in a preseason game last month, Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook did his best to light Lin up. In 16 minutes, Westbrook scored 19 points and afterward, Lin acknowledged that Westbrook got the best of him.
There’s no shame in being outplayed by Lillard or Westbrook or being bullied by the Miami Heat. But the fact of the matter is that opposing teams and opposing point guards are fired up to take it to Linsanity, and it has showed.
The Knicks came into this season wanting to compete with the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics for supremacy in the Eastern Conference. They would not have been able to do that with Lin as their starting point guard. Period.
Through no fault of his own, this just wasn’t the right situation for Lin. At this point, the Knicks simply can’t afford to be losing games because the point guard wasn’t ready or made mistakes down the stretch, and though there’s no guarantee Lin would have crumbled under the pressure that he would have faced this season in New York, there’s a much smaller risk of that happening with Felton and Kidd.
Call it risk mitigation.
With several veterans filling out AARP applications, the Knicks needed steady production from the point guard spot to compete for all the marbles.
Lin, while he is a great story, wasn’t the right fit.
Dolan, while his motivation for letting Lin walk is still up for debate, probably made a good decision.
At the end of the day, I predict we’ll look back and see that Linsanity was just fool’s gold, after all.
Moke Hamilton is a Senior NBA Columnist for SheridanHoops.com whose columns appear here on Fridays. Follow him on Twitter.