Although the New York Knicks management has until 11:59 p.m. Tuesday to announce whether they’ll match the Houston Rockets’ $25 million, three-year contract offer for Jeremy Lin, most Knicks fans seem resigned to the idea that the electrifying player will be moving on.
But the move is still being debated online, with some arguing that Lin is worth keeping – both as a player and for the inspiration and energy he brought to the struggling Knicks this season.
So what’s the value of Lin’s inspirational factor? His ascent from being an undrafted backup cut from three NBA rosters to star point guard took the world by surprise – and it had Madison Square Garden “roaring like it hasn’t in a decade,” according to New York Magazine.
Many fans see him as a stereotype-busting role model. Not only was a religious Harvard graduate starting in the NBA, but with Taiwanese parents, Lin is the first American-born NBA player of Taiwanese or Chinese descent.
“I hope he stays, but I don’t know if it’s going to happen with all that money,” says Jack Goldenberg, a student, after he walked out of the NBA Store here. “I think a lot of people look up to him, it's something to have someone of a different ethnicity repping our team.”
Not only is he admired, but Lin has also been a financial phenomenon for both the Knicks and the NBA. New York stores couldn’t keep Lin jerseys in stock last February, and Lin has more than 800,000 Twitter followers, plus more than 2.8 million followers on the Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo.
But it looks like this isn't just a popularity contest.
After playing in only 25 games, it’s hard to evaluate based on skills alone if the 23-year-old is worth the money the Rockets are offering. The Rockets desperately need excitement, identity, and a point guard. Many fans doubt that the Knicks will match their offer. The Knicks have recently picked up point guards Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton as hedges against losing Lin.
“I don’t think he’s that good, to be worth that much money,” says Ulysses Jones, who was looking into the NBA Store window Monday morning. “I was glad he came in and helped out when he did, but it was way too much hype.”
Houston offered about $5 million for Lin’s first two years, with $14.8 million for his third year. If New York were to match that third-year payment, they’d have to pay $30 million to the league as a “luxury tax,” since it would push them over the NBA salary cap.
Knicks teammate Carmelo Anthony called the contract offer “ridiculous.”
An online petition at change.org asking Knicks management to match the Rockets’ offer has gathered 6,576 signatures as of this writing, out of 10,000 requested. It was started by someone with the username “I Am Linsane.”
Meanwhile, Lin’s merchandise sales also seem to reflect his uncertain status. At Modells, manager Michelle B. said that interest had dropped off almost completely after Lin exited the season with a knee surgery. And, in what might be a sign that the Knicks have already made their decision, Lin jerseys aren’t listed for sale in the Knicks online store anymore, and his name is absent from the panel listing “2012 players.”