It's not official yet. Nothing will be until midnight hits and July 17th turns into July 18th, and the NBA-enforced deadline has passed. What we do know is that the New York Knicks, years after turning their payroll into a pumpkin, have all but decided on declining to match the Houston Rockets' three-year and $25.1 million dollar offer sheet for restricted free agent Jeremy Lin. In the most damning report yet, the New York Times' Howard Beck reported this on Tuesday afternoon:
The Knicks are not expected to announce their decision until this evening, and there is still a chance — albeit incredibly small — that it could be reversed. But as of 4 p.m. the decision had been made and was considered final by those with knowledge of the deliberations. Indeed, the deliberations were said to be over.
As Beck's report went up on the Times' website, Knicks owner James Dolan and team coach Mike Woodson could be seen at the Las Vegas Summer League, literally and figuratively miles away from considering bringing the point guard back. Famously, the third year of Lin's deal has a balloon payment that nearly triples the per-year earnings of its first two years, and could conceivably cost New York nearly $40 million in total for one year of play from a still-untested point guard.
Because, as I wrote on Monday, none of this matters much because of the team's desperate situation, relying on Raymond Felton and an aging Jason Kidd as the championship window closes in New York, months and years after spending significant amounts of cash on players without caring about the luxury tax.
Conceivably, because as the Times' Nate Silver pointed out, New York might not be able to afford to not match the offer for the point guard, even if he doesn't pan out to the near-All-Star level that he played at last February. He makes the team and the team's owners so much money from so many areas, that the final year of that contract is a small price to pay, even with the tax going great guns.
Conceivably, because as ESPN cap guru Larry Coon pointed out (as relayed in the free portion of ESPN's website by Beckley Mason), the Knicks actually wouldn't have to take that massive hit should Lin fail them, because waiving Jeremy before that third year could save them a significant amount of money in both salary cap and payroll terms under the NBA's new stretch provision. A provision created seemingly and specifically for a team as ridiculous as the New York Knicks.
Jeremy Lin is no sure thing, and those terms (as put together by Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey) are pretty ridiculous. But apparently this has whittled down to an unfortunate mix of hurt feelings by New York ownership (who, you'll recall, encouraged Lin to go find his market value before they deigned to offer him a contract, only to be surprised by the strategic nature of Houston's offer), and an odd batch of calculated and strangely timed parsimony. Fatty's watching what he eats, now.
Of course, there's still time between when this column is posted, and the midnight deadline. But if James Dolan is an expert at one thing in this world, it's the ability to be stubborn. 311 days
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