Sports
3:07 pm
Tue July 17, 2012

Is The Big Apple About To Lose Its Love Of Linsanity?

Originally published on Tue July 17, 2012 4:16 pm

In case you were living under a rock last winter, here's a quick refresher on the phenomenon known as "Linsanity."

In just a few weeks, Jeremy Lin — a lanky Asian-American point guard who played his college ball at Harvard — went from a benchwarmer to a star. He led an unlikely winning streak that made the long-downtrodden New York Knicks seem momentarily relevant in the NBA title hunt.

"This kid has single-handedly done the unthinkable: made people want to watch the New York Knicks," Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert said, joining the media frenzy.

Lin T-shirts and jerseys flew off the shelves until the sudden star had season-ending knee surgery and the Knicks made an early exit from the playoffs. Still, Lin won an ESPY award as Breakthrough Player of the Year last week, when he said this:

"I'm proud of the team, and the city of New York and how they embraced us during that time. It ... really was magical."

But as quickly as it started, Lin's magical run in New York may be ending. A few days ago, Lin signed an offer sheet with the Houston Rockets that would pay him $25 million over three years. Because Lin is a restricted free agent, the Knicks have the right to match that offer — or not.

Is Lin Worth The Price?

"Jeremy Lin is only going to be worth that money if he's the point guard, and if he continues to perform as he's performed," says David Berri, a sports economist at Southern Utah University. "Those are big ifs."

Berri says the real problem for the Knicks comes in the third year of the contract, when Lin is slated to make almost $15 million.

"That [will] push the Knicks over the luxury-tax penalty, which makes Lin even more expensive," he says.

Because of the NBA's tax on big payrolls, it could cost the Knicks an additional $26 million to keep Lin for the third season of his contract. That's why most observers, including Mitchell Modell, expect the team will let him go. Modell is CEO of the Modell's Sporting Goods chain, a business that has a lot of money invested in Jeremy Lin T-shirts and jerseys.

"Would I love to see him re-sign with the Knicks? Absolutely," Modell says. "It would save us a lot of money in markdowns. But at the end of the day, the Knicks have to make a financial decision."

Outside Modell's flagship store in Midtown, basketball fans seemed divided about what the Knicks should do. Thomas Boddie of Teaneck, N.J., says the team should let Lin walk.

"He's unproven ... 26 games [and] you're going to give him $25 million? Let him go," Boddie says.

That's the number of games Lin played in a featured role for the Knicks. Still, Juan Barretto of Queens would regret letting him go.

"He brought a lot of life to the city," Barretto says. "I guess it's all about money, but I would've kept him."

If the 23-year-old Lin blossoms into an all-star in Houston, Barretto says, the Knicks will have only themselves to blame.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. The storybook career of Jeremy Lin with the New York Knicks may have reached an abrupt end. After rising from obscurity to NBA stardom last season, Lin received a lucrative contract offer from the Houston Rockets. Technically, the Knicks have until midnight to decide if they will match that offer or let Lin go, but many disappointed New York fans are already saying goodbye, as NPR's Joel Rose reports.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: In case you were living under a rock last winter, here's a quick refresher on the phenomenon known as Linsanity.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: One of the more incredible stories we've seen in the NBA in quite some time, Jeremy Lin coming out of nowhere and playing brilliant basketball.

MARV ALPERT: Oh, it's great. It's been great for basketball in New York, no doubt about it.

ROSE: In a few weeks, Jeremy Lin, a lanky Asian-American point guard who played his college ball at Harvard, went from a bench warmer to a star. Lin led the Knicks on an unlikely winning streak that made the team seem momentarily relevant in the NBA title hunt.

Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert joined in the media frenzy.

STEPHEN COLBERT: This kid has singlehandedly done the unthinkable - made people want to watch the New York Knicks.

ROSE: Lin t-shirts and jerseys flew off the shelves until Lin had season-ending surgery on his knee and the Knicks made an early exit from the playoffs. Still, Lin won an ESPY Award as Breakthrough Player of the Year last week when he gave this interview.

JEREMY LIN: I'm awfully proud of the team and I'm proud of the city of New York and how they embraced us during that time and, I mean, it really was magical.

ROSE: But just as quickly as it started, Jeremy Lin's magical run in New York may be over. A few days ago, Lin signed an offer sheet with the Houston Rockets that would pay him $25 million over three years. Because Lin is a restricted free agent, the Knicks have the right to match that offer or not, as the case may be.

DAVID BERRY: Jeremy Lin's only going to be worth that kind of money if he is actually the starting point guard and he continues to perform as he's performed and those are big ifs.

ROSE: David Berry is a sports economist at Southern Utah University. He says the real problem for the Knicks comes in the third year of the contract, when Lin is slated to make almost $15 million.

BERRY: That's going to push the Knicks over the luxury tax penalty, which makes Lin even more expensive for the Knicks.

ROSE: Because of the NBA's tax on big payrolls, it could have cost the Knicks an additional $26 million to keep Lin. That's why most observers expect the team will let him go, even Mitchell Modell, CEO of the Modell's Sporting Goods chain, which has a lot of money invested in Jeremy Lin t-shirts and jerseys.

MITCHELL MODELL: Listen, would I love to see him resign with the Knicks? Absolutely. It was a lot of money in markdowns, but at the end of the day, the Knicks have to make a financial decision.

ROSE: Outside Modell's flagship store in Midtown, basketball fans seemed divided about what the Knicks should do. Thomas Body(ph) of Teaneck, New Jersey says the team should let Jeremy Lin walk.

THOMAS BODY: He is improving himself. Twenty-six games. You going to give him 25 million? Let him go.

ROSE: Twenty-six games is the number that Jeremy Lin played in the featured role for the Knicks. Still, Juan Baretto(ph) of Queens thinks the team would regret seeing him leave.

JUAN BARETTO: He's not one of the best stars, but I mean, he brought a lot of life to the city. I guess it's all about money, but I would have kept him.

ROSE: If the 23-year-old Jeremy Lin blossoms into an all-star in Houston, Baretto says the Knicks will have only themselves to blame.

Joel Rose, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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