Hold Your Horses Folks, Lin Isn’t Going Anywhere

Today, the great Ian Begley of ESPN New York had some news concerning the restricted free agent status of Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin.

Jeremy Lin will be a restricted free agent this summer, and many see it as a foregone conclusion that the point guard will return to the New York Knicks, but not everyone feels so strongly.

“I don’t expect that. We’re not anticipating that’s going to happen. We don’t have assurances of anything,” Lin’s agent, Roger Montgomery, said in an interview with the New York Post. “I know history shows most restricted free agents go back to their team, but I’m not going to assume anything. We’re waiting to see what happens.”

Knicks coach Mike Woodson said earlier this month that Lin will “absolutely” be back with the Knicks next season. But Lin, speaking the day after the Knicks’ season-ending loss to Miami in the playoffs, said “nothing is set in stone” regarding his free agency.

“There’s always going to be uncertainty until the final contract is signed, so definitely nothing is set in stone,” Lin said. “Nothing’s set in stone until it’s really written.”

Not to worry Knicks fans, Lin isn’t going anywhere. Here’s my take on this latest statement by Lin’s agent, Roger Montgomery:

Jeremy Lin is an Asian-American and the only prominent Asian-American basketball player that we have in the league. Because of this, his value to the Madison Square Garden brass far exceeds his ability to split double teams. Not only is Lin a quality point guard, but he is an absolute cash cow. Last month, the league reported that Lin finished second behind Bulls guard Derrick Rose in jersey sales. The upstart Knicks guard finished ahead of established stars Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in jersey sales over the past season.   On the Knicks online store, “Jeremy Lin” has his own category on the top of the page alongside “Best Sellers”, “Apparel”, and “Jerseys”. The Knicks aren’t letting this guy walk.

At Madison Square Garden, making money is at the crux of operations. The Knicks are a business. Fans root for the team to win championships and playoff games, but James Dolan is interested in making money. Now, I believe Lin is a very good player. He gets to the rim easily, finishes strongly and can distribute with the best of them. Is he a perfect fit alongside Carmelo Anthony? No, I don’t believe so. I’d prefer a bigger, more defensive minded point guard. Knocking down outside spot up opportunities isn’t Lins game. Lin is most effective creating with the ball in his hands. Obviously we’ve seen that Carmelo Anthony isn’t happy without the ball in his hand. Lin is a good player and has potential, but he is not a perfect fit next to Anthony. Does that matter to the Garden brass? Nope. He sells jerseys and goofy looking T-Shirts with Taiwanese writing on them. His marketing and sales value to Madison Square Garden far outweighs his basketball value in Dolan’s eyes and Lin will be back.

You may be asking yourself, what about Steve Nash? Or Goran Dragic? Not happening. Unless the Players Association  wins their court ruling and Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak are given “early-bird” rights, the Knicks are not going to have their Mid-level Exception. They will be using most, if not all, of the $5 Million MLE to re-sign Lin. The Knicks will then have only $1.4 Million veteran minimums and the $1.9 Million Bi-Annual exception to sign free agents. Assuming the Knicks have to use the MLE to re-sign Lin, they will be out of the running for Nash, Dragic or any other quality free agent.

Lin is a restricted free agent which means the Knicks have the ability to match any offer that is made for Lin. Because of the Gilbert Arenas provision, the most that Lin can be offered by a team is a 4 year $36 million deal. I believe a team will make that offering and I believe the Knicks will match it. Because of his market value, as well as his ability to run the point, Lin will return to Madison Square Garden next season.

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