As a nascent sports writer, the last thing one should do is publicly challenge the assertions of those who have already established themselves in the business. After all, members of the media trade in the commodity of information, and sans relationships with players, agents, team executives, and yes, fellow reporters alike, it can be virtually impossible to find success, measurable or otherwise.
And so it is with no small degree of trepidation, but perhaps more than a smidge of glee, that I find myself compelled to advocate against one Mr. Stephen A. Smith – Prince of Hollis, Queens, self-professed Knicks fan, ESPN’s Jack of all trades, master of none – with respect to his stated views on the continuing saga which is Linsanity, Part Deux.
Rather than start from scratch – the great Will Leitch has already outfoxed us all on that front – I thought it better to address Mr. Smith’s conclusions line-by-mind-numbing-line:
Jeremy Lin has been all about the money since the day he burst onto Broadway.
He has? Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.
You see, Mr. Smith, before “Linsanity” gripped this city, this nation, indeed, the world, Jeremy Lin was no ordinary dude. He was a deeply religious young man. He was a high school state champion. He was a star Ivy League athlete and graduate. He was an NBA player. He was an Asian American. And guess what? He remains all of those things.
Had you taken the time to speak with Jeremy, as I did – and yes, we all know how busy you are, mostly because you remind us on a daily basis how busy you are – before that fateful February 4th game against the then New Jersey Nets, you would know that he is amazingly unchanged and unfazed by the phenomenon which has enveloped him. Aside from his desire to, you know, like be paid and stuff for being a professional basketball player, what, exactly, suggests that money is his end-all, be-all?
Are we to blindly assume that you are all about the cashish because your $2M contract with ESPN requires you to work approximately 87 jobs at the network? Where were your calls for Carmelo Anthony to be less obsessed with those greenbacks? You know, like when the team ‘Melo supposedly just had to immediately play for stripped itself of assets to appease his monetary demands?
Lin was about the Benjamins when Linsanity made the cover of Time magazine. He definitely was overcome by dollar signs when he wouldn’t play at “85 percent” for the New York Knicks in the playoffs, and it was all about the bottom line once free agency arrived.
Really? Is Jeremy Lin a member of Time’s editorial staff? Or Sports Illustrated’s, for that matter?
Even if we assume that Lin’s statement about his health was more nefarious than poorly worded, I find your “definitive” ability to get inside his head (and his knee) to be somewhat remarkable. As you know, Jeremy Lin went undrafted out of Harvard. He was cut by the Golden State Warriors. He was cut by the Houston Rockets – ironically, by a General Manager widely thought of as a statistical genius, who is now willing to pay through the nose to reacquire him. And, lest we forget, he was perhaps hours away from being cut by the Knicks. Yet, somehow, you have inexplicably posited that Lin should have disregarded the Knicks’ medical staff (who, coincidentally, had not cleared him to play), and risked additional injury because because his team needed him. Of course, this is the same team that had capitalized on its asset’s newfound fame and popularity (but certainly not yet his fortune) to a degree which has never before been seen in American professional sports. See, e.g., this interview with MSG President Scott O’Neil.
It’s funny, I do not recall the Knicks offering to lock up Jeremy Lin to a long-term a contract while he was injured. Perhaps loyalty and commitment works both ways? Or maybe, just maybe, the Garden-brass did not perceive it to be good business to pay a player coming off injury without a clean bill of health from the medical staff. Do you see where I am headed with this, Mr. Smith?
That means acknowledging Lin’s worth, recognizing it’s far less than $14.8 million in any season, and cutting ties with him quicker than we can spell s-a-n-i-t-y. This is the way it should be. Why everybody’s making such a fuss about it boggles the mind.
Why is everybody making such a fuss, eh? Hmm. Let me see. Well, this is a good start. Put more plainly – remember, I know how busy you are – who is the last young player that the New York Knicks have acquired, developed and beneficially retained? I know it seems like a trick question, but it is not. It’s just that you have to travel all the way back to the summer of 1996, when New York signed Allan Houston, to find the answer. I bring up Houston not to suggest that Lin will or will not be as a good, but to confirm that players, by and large, do not get better in Gotham, they get worse. (Houston, by the way, eventually got worse, too, and his contract became an albatross, but he was not 23-years-old when the Knicks overpaid him.) In fact, other than Danilo Gallinari – who you were more than happy to jettison in the ‘Melo deal – Knicks fans have had to pin their hopes on the likes of Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, Eddy Curry, Antonio McDyess, Keith Van Horn… need I go on?
In Lin, the fans see a young, incredibly productive player who has a chance to be better than average, at worst. They see a transcendent figure, someone who is proof positive that anything is possible and that preconceived notions are for the ignorant. They see themselves in Lin, someone seemingly ordinary who goes on to do something extraordinary. They see, quite simply, hope.
Nobody’s arguing about whether or not Lin can play, because we know anyone who drops 38 on the Los Angeles Lakers, who drops 28-and-14 on the Dallas Mavericks and who averaged more than 14 points and 7 assists in 25 NBA games must bring a little game with him. But that is not the issue here.
Shouldn’t that be the issue here, though, Mr. Smith? You have clamored incessantly (and with great bluster) for a championship in New York, so if we are to believe that is all that matters, than what other “issues” are there? Though it has been virtually 40 years since the Knicks last won a title, it feels like even longer to most of us, especially to those like me who have not seen a championship in our lifetimes. For a team devoid of roster-flexibility, isn’t it incumbent on management to collect and nurture as many on-court assets as possible, especially those that “bring a little game?”
The issue is simple in that it can be reduced to one question: Is Jeremy Lin worth more than $30 million for any one season on any team’s salary cap? That’s the hit the Knicks would take, when you factor in the luxury tax, in the third year of this deal.
Speaking of trick questions, Mr. Smith, yours is a real doozy. Might I ask what professional athlete is worth $30 million for any one season? And let’s be honest, Sir; though professional athletes are theoretically paid based on their on-court contributions to their respective franchises, we do not live in a theoretical world. NBA Basketball is a business, and the league’s
That Lin has shown himself to be a potential All-Star makes your analysis that much more confounding.
The Knicks are reportedly on the verge of saying “hell no,” as one team source told me Saturday night. And if that’s indeed the case, kudos to the franchise for making an intelligent decision.
Remember that Seinfeld episode when George decides to do the exact opposite of what his instincts are telling him? (No, you probably don’t have time to watch sitcoms, but the gist was that an incredibly unlucky chap actually finds success in life by not following his gut.) Almost every single time the Knicks have actively tried to improve themselves (since basically, ever) has backfired. Trades gone awry, draft picks squandered or donated to rival clubs, head-scratching contracts for unworthy players. You name it, the Knicks have done it. So now, maybe it makes some sense for the Knicks to not make what you deem an “intelligent decision.”
Surely, you would agree that following James Dolan’s gut hasn’t exactly proven fruitful thus far, amirite?
It’s meaningless to discuss whether Lin is a potential point guard of the future.
It is? Wait a second, I thought that is what we were getting paid to do here? (Though in my case, I get paid approximately $2M less than you do to discuss anything.) Is it meaningless for Knicks GM Glen Grunwald to analyze Lin’s ability, his potential, his strengths and weaknesses? Is that not the basic premise outlined by his job description? I mean, I know that Isiah Thomas was never such a big fan of those burdensome executive responsibilities, but something tells me “discussing” a player’s upside is kind of essential with respect to the decision-making process.
Or whether he’ll be able to mesh with Carmelo Anthony—which, by the way, is ridiculous on its face since Melo was the man primarily responsible for convincing former coach Mike D’Antoni to play Lin in the first place.
Again, I know you have a lot of responsibilities, but I believe this to be flat-out untrue. First of all, D’Antoni denied that ‘Melo played a role in the increase in Lin’s playing time in late February. Secondly, despite the wilting criticism levied upon the coach during his tenure in New York, no one, and I mean NO ONE, has ever questioned D’Antoni’s character, his honesty or his self-accountability. Yes, MDA is a stubborn person. Yes, he is someone who, to a fault, believes that his way is the best way, but are other successful coaches any different? To suggest that Anthony allegedly lobbying for Lin to play last season has any bearing on whether the two can co-exist on the floor going forward is suspect logic, at best.
It’s about Jeremy Lin, and what Linsanity has done to the Jeremy Lin the Knicks once knew. As the regular season waned and Lin was recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, there were numerous occasions when members of the Knicks, on all levels, questioned what was going on. With their backcourt decimated, desperate for some infusion of relief, time and again players, coaches, even Madison Square Garden executives looked over and asked privately, “Do you think he could give us 15 minutes?” It was before Lin blurted out that he was “85 percent,” but long after members of the Knicks realized he didn’t want to jeopardize the potential paycheck waiting for him down the line. Fear of injury is one thing. Fear of getting outplayed and exposed in postseason competition is another. And although folks universally recognized Lin’s heart, they also lamented Lin’s inner circle of confidants quick to tell him there was no better position to be in than the one he was in at the end of the season.
We’ve gone over some of this ground already, but these players, coaches and MSG execs you speak of, are these the same people that now call Lin’s offer sheet from the Houston Rockets “ridiculous?” Are these the same people who perhaps harbor resentment or jealousy that their own lack of effort, focus and improvement have stymied their earnings potential?
You surmise, Mr. Smith, that Lin did not want to risk his future income despite the fact that his team so desperately needed him, but something tells me that you would have been the first person to scream and shout and carry on about his ineffectiveness if he was unable to perform at pre-injury performance. What’s that, you say? How can I make assumptions about what you think or how you view a situation?
Pot, meet kettle.
As for conspiracy theories in relation to Lin’s inner circle advising him to take advantage of his circumstance in life – a situation that could only be called once-in-a-lifetime – NEWSFLASH! Lin’s “inner circle” was right! Any other player would have done the same thing. Again, as you are wont to so often remind us, professional basketball is a business, a “big boy’s game,” you say, if my memory serves. As such, Jeremy Lin was playing his chess pieces to the best of his ability, much like Anthony did in manipulating his exit from Denver.
Fast-forward to now and it’s all clear. Jeremy Lin was all about business. He was all about getting paid. And he didn’t mind acting like Jerry Maguire (“Show Me The Money,” remember?) one bit as one Knicks backcourt body after another came tumbling out of the playoffs.To be clear, Lin wasn’t wrong about this at all. For a point guard with a streaky jump shot, a limited left hand, who’s turnover-prone and eons away from being a capable defender, he should be called an astute businessman right now with the deal he swindled out of the Rockets.
I often wonder, Mr. Smith, do you actually research your positions before presenting them for publication? Jeremy Lin is a swindler, now? You are talking about someone who, by ALL ACCOUNTS, is one of the most humble, grounded, not to mention intelligent, professional athletes to come through New York in ages, yet you seem to demonstrate zero hesitancy to besmirch his character.
I am curious, too, if Lin has “a streaky jump shot” (his effective FG% was actually 46.9% and his TS% was 55.2% last season), how do you feel about Lin’s potential replacement, Raymond Felton (45.4 eFG%, 49.8 TS% for his career)?
But it doesn’t change the position he has now put the Knicks in. Pay him now, and he may ultimately cost them more than $30 million later. And this would be around the same time Melo, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler are accounting for a combined $62 million on the Knicks’ books. Lose him? What do you lose?
Other than a marketing cash cow off the court and a potential All-Star on it? Nothing, nothing at all.
Lin did not sign an offer sheet with the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets or someone else within the Atlantic Division or the Eastern Conference. In Houston, Lin would be seen twice a season—unless the Rockets are heading to the NBA Finals, which isn’t fathomable in the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, the Knicks just signed Jason Kidd for three years and re-acquired Raymond Felton for three years. They have experience, depth and happen to be two guards capable of running the show for a team with two stars, in Amare and Melo, who will want the ball when they are called upon to step up and play like stars.
Wait a minute, didn’t you just finish telling us, Mr. Smith, that Lin essentially has more holes in his game than Toney Douglas? Why does it have any bearing whatsoever where Lin ends up if he is but an average player, at best, according to you? Why should the Knicks care about facing Lin if he is nothing more than a middling player?
As for Jason Kidd and Felton, between the age and drinking prowess of the former, and the calorie consumption of the latter, it would seem to be somewhat risky entrusting the pair with the team’s fortunes, does it not? After all, we saw last year what happens when you throw a ‘Melo-led offense to the wolves; it gets cannibalized. In fairness, without Lin, the 2011-’12 Knicks miss last season’s playoffs.
Lin is no scrub. He can play. The Knicks, undoubtedly, will acknowledge this.
Whew, that’s a relief.
But while doing so, they should just make sure to ask two questions of anyone who thinks Lin deserves such an exorbitant amount of money:
What exactly did 25 games prove?
And when did Jeremy Lin—in Year 3 of this deal—become the second coming of Chris Paul?
These are great questions, Mr. Smith, so let me save the Knicks the trouble and answer them for you. 25 games “prove” absolutely nothing, much in the way that opinions prove absolutely nothing. Evaluating players is not an exact science, not for guys like Daryl Morey, who rely on numbers, or guys like you, who say that they rely on what their eyes tell them. In the end, the Knicks can only manage their risk, weigh the pros and cons of all potential outcomes, and make the best decision possible for their organization, their fans and their bottom line. When it comes to all three of those metrics, Lin’s 25-game rise to stardom “proved” that he generates revenue, fan interest, and most importantly, wins. Do past results indicate future performance? No, not in the stock market, but in the case of 23-year-old point guards, those 25 games sure stand as compelling motivation for a historically inept franchise to double down on a bet without much downside.
As to your second query, I am also glad that you invoked the name of Chris Paul. Many suspect that the close ties between Madison Square Garden and Creative Artists Agency have something to do with Lin’s possible departure. Of course, I have no idea if that is the case or not, but surely you realize that without Lin, if at all, the Knicks have not the assets to trade for the Clippers PG, right? Sure, Lin would have to waive the one-year no-trade protection afforded him under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, but the fact remains that assets facilitate deals, and in the case of the Knicks, their tradeable assets are scarce.
No one thinks that Lin is Paul, okay. No one thought that Finkel was Einhorn, either, for what it’s worth. This isn’t about comparing players, it is about realizing that Lin has value, value which no one can quantify right now, and though it will be pricey to keep him, not to keep him may end up costing the Knicks much more.
In dollars and sense.
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