Now, I must say that I’m not the biggest fan of NBA basketball (gimme the NCAA any day!), but I found myself tuning in to a lot of those Sunday afternoon 1 o’clock games on ABC last season, for pretty much one reason: Jeremy Lin. The man came outta nowhere (Harvard, actually), was signed off the street and burst out of the gate for the Knicks, earning a spot in the rookie-sophomore game on All-Star Weekend, and ultimately putting up impressive totals of 14 points and six assists per game in his first significant NBA action.
But while his final numbers were pretty impressive, the start he got off to was simply ridiculous. After being pressed into starting duty due to a rash of injuries in February, Lin reeled off six straight 20-point performances and scored 20 in nine of his first 10 games–including a 38-point effort to beat the Lakers on Feb 10th. Linsanity had arrived, and though he missed the last 17 games of the season and the Knicks’ playoff series with a knee injury, his run through February and March is what put the team in the playoffs in the first place. Not only that, but he became a mass media and social media phenomenon in the process, and as the first Asian-American to play in the NBA, a role model for an entire demographic–of which a large portion live in the Big Apple, where his jersey and t-shirts were flying off the shelves. This is a man who single-handedly made basketball in New York matter again–and yet, when the Houston Rockets made him a three-year, 25-million-dollar offer, the Knicks decided to walk away when they could’ve matched it. What gives?
I suppose leaving Lin behind would’ve made sense had New York signed Steve Nash, a guy who, let’s face it, is clearly the young PG’s role model. But the Steve Nash sweepstakes landed in La-La Land, disappointing many fans on the East Coast, especially in Toronto, where the Raptors are now stuck with Landry Fields in a gamble that didn’t pay off. Did I mention that Fields was also a Knicks free agent–one who they didn’t opt to re-sign?
After losing out to the Lakers, however, the Knicks offered themselves a consolation prize in Raymond Felton, who had starred in Carolina with UNC and the Charlotte Bobcats, and put together a solid season of 17 points and nine assists per game with in New York before being dealt to Denver for Carmelo Anthony a couple years back. That said, his numbers took a dive on the West Coast; he averaged just 11.4 points and a respectable 6.5 assists with the Portland Trail Blazers last season–and Bleacher Report is calling him riskier than Jeremy Lin. Sure, he’s a seven-year vet, whereas Lin really only has two solid months of NBA playing time under his belt–but there’s no doubt who’s going to sell more jerseys and put more butts in the seats. Felton simply isn’t a captivating player and a feel-good story like Lin and it looks like the Knicks will be fading back into national obscurity due to this questionable decision.
Then again, the New York Jets did just trade for Tim Tebow, so perhaps the Big Apple wasn’t big enough for both of them?