Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Knicks Linsanity Ends In Disaster

Jeremy Lin was one of the feel good stories of the last NBA season. He came out of nowhere to be starting guard for the New York Knicks after injuries felled the starters. He managed more than respectable statistics in his 1/3 of a season's worth of starts, but then was felled with an injury that kept him out of the playoffs.

Despite the injury, Lin had a good chance of being the starter for the Knicks in the 2012-2013 season had the Knicks sought to keep him on the team. The Knicks thought it was a good idea to let Lin shop his skills around. That was the first of many bad moves the Knicks made this offseason.

Lin got a great deal from the Houston Rockets (the very team that had released Lin on waivers in 2011 when the Knicks picked him up). The Knicks claimed that they would match the offer; Lin apparently went back to the Rockets and reworked the deal with a third year that seemingly would have imposed huge salary cap considerations for the Knicks. The Knicks dithered, then picked up a boatload of over-the-hill, has-beens or never-weres and then ultimately refused to resign Lin.

Lin is now on the Rockets, and the Knicks are inspiring the ire of Knick fans who knew the value that Lin brought to the Garden - not only on the court but with the huge impact he made off the court. Linsanity will play out in Houston, but it didn't have to be that way.
The new CBA included a provision to make it much easier for teams to release players with bad contracts. It’s called the stretch provision. Here it is right out of Larry Coon’s invaluable CBA FAQ that can be found here:

Otherwise (if the contract or extension was signed under the current CBA), the remaining guaranteed salary is paid over twice the number of remaining years, plus one, per the Stretch provision:

If the player’s salary payments are spread-out using the Stretch provision, the team may elect to stretch the salary cap charge to match2. For example, if two seasons remain on the player’s contract when he is waived, and the payment is spread-out over five years per the Stretch provision, then the team may elect to spread-out the salary cap hit over those same five years.
In other words, the Knicks will have the option after the 2013-2014 season to waive Jeremy Lin, take his third-year $15 million salary and spread it out with its cap hit over the following three seasons. In each of those three seasons, the Knicks would have $5 million of dead money on the cap. Doing that would all but eliminate the insane luxury tax payment the Knicks would have to endure in 2014-2015, which is supposedly stopping them from re-signing Lin.

Obviously, this isn’t an ideal plan or scenario. The Knicks wouldn’t be resigning Lin with the idea of waiving him after 2013. Instead, this is simply a way out if Lin turns out to be nothing more than a backup quality point guard. Having dead money on the cap for three seasons is obviously a bad thing, but it’s nothing the franchise couldn’t survive.
Lin could have turned out to be above average as a point guard over full seasons, but he would be at least as good as his replacements (Felton and Kidd - both of which are not the draw Lin was, and in Kidd's case, without the worry of a DUI in waiting). Indeed, Kidd was barely named to the team when he was arrested on DUI.

The toxic locker room situation is nothing to sneeze at either. The pieces that the Dolans have assembled over the past couple of years was self-centered so that Lin's selfless play was freshening and worth watching. Now? It's anybody's guess, but I doubt the team will be nearly as fun to watch.

Knick fans are already indicating that they're going to consider the Nets over the Knicks, which is money to Jay-Z's ears.

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