BOSTON, MA - MARCH 04: Jeremy Lin #17 of the New York Knicks looks up from the bench in the second half against the Boston Celtics on March 4, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Boston Celtics defeated the New York Knicks 115-111 in overtime. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
It's the circle of life everybody, though sometimes it circles quicker than we would think.
Less than a year after the Rockets cut him from the final roster, Jeremy Lin is back in Houston, this time with a slightly more elevated profile, a handful of 20 and 30-point games and enough turnovers to make him a seasoned veteran. Howard Beck confirmed that the Knicks will not match the Rockets' offer to Lin, and he offered a quick financial analysis of why New York let him walk:
The short answer: money. Lin signed an offer sheet for three years and $25.1 million with the Rockets, which is reasonable on its face. But the third year contains a balloon payment, or poison pill, of $14.9 million. Because the Knicks will be over the N.B.A.'s luxury-tax threshold, Lin's salary could cost them an additional $35 million or more in penalties paid to the league. As popular as Lin is, and as great as he was in February, it is tough to justify a $50 million bill for a single player, especially one who has started just 25 games.
You might be thinking: Why would the Rockets pay Lin $14.9 million in a single year? The answer is that they won't: The CBA's so-called Arenas provision allows the Rockets to take an even cap hit each season (in this case, just over $8 million) — and for us fans especially, the cap hit is all that matters. You could argue that paying Lin $8 million per year is a little crazy, especially given his limited experience, but this is usually how RFA's work: You have to give his previous team every reason imaginable not to match the offer. The Rockets appear to have succeeded.
The key thing to remember is that deals for Lin and Omer Asik (should the Bulls not match Asik) won't affect the Dwight Howard talks — the Rockets still have room to take back unwanted contract money from the Magic that could come in the form of guys like Hedo Turkoglu or Jason Richardson.
Amidst the craziness, let's forget about Lin for a second. Forget the guy on the court for just a moment and think about what this move does for the Rockets on the whole:
A) The Rockets finally got a big name free agent, and they stole him from THE major market in the country. Lin isn't the star free agent on the court that the Rockets have coveted, but he certainly is a star in name that will improve Houston's standing on a national stage. Keep in mind: Lin chose to sign the sheet, he chose to come to Houston. He signed that sheet with every intention of playing in South Texas, and while he may not have necessarily wanted to leave New York, he wouldn't have signed with Houston if he didn't want to be here. Don't let the Post or Daily News convince you otherwise.
B) The Rockets have more wiggle room with the roster than before. There is no telling what the exact revenue gain for Houston is in signing Lin, but my guess is that it is certainly significant enough for the Rockets to be able to take a few more risks with the roster. Les Alexander's refusal to rebuild likely comes from a fear of revenue losses, either through ticket sales or jersey sales. Lin won't keep the Rockets in the playoff run by himself, but he can make a major impact on the financial side of things. If Alexander is happy with the money coming in, he's more likely to let Morey work on his own.
Now, let's talk about Lin as a player. You probably have one of two opinions about him: Either he's the next big thing at point guard, or he's severely overrated and is solely a product of Mike D'Antoni's system. The truth is that Lin falls somewhere between those two extremes.
The Rockets ran the pick and roll quite a bit last year under Kevin McHale, and that's great news for Lin. He's at his best when he has a big man to roll with and it's how he best creates separation from his defender. McHale's free-flowing, improvisational offense (codename for lazy?) should suit Lin nicely — I could see him finding success much in the way that Goran Dragic did. In fact, I don't see a huge difference between the two guards, aside from Lin's slightly less effective outside shot.
Obviously, the major worry with Lin is his absurd turnover rate, which ballooned the more he played. I think that mostly came as a result of this I-am-at-MSG-so-I-must-make-a-huge-play mentality that can often put jitters into rookies or young players. You're on the biggest stage in the world and everyone is counting on you: Of course you're going to force it a bit. I think the more Lin comes down to earth and settles in with his role, the more he'll take care of the ball.
So at the end of the day, what can we expect from Lin? I'd say we're looking at a point guard who will fall just inside the top twenty in the league once he gets used to his teammates. Maybe thirteen to fifteen points per game with six to seven assists? Defensively, Lin will probably struggle, but on offense I don't think the Rockets will lose much from the position. This is a good move for Houston, perhaps more for our spirits than for wins, but the wins should come in time, too.
I almost forgot to mention, he's only twenty-three years old. That's as encouraging as anything else.
UPDATE (9:37 pm CT)
It's official. Lin will be back in Rocket red.
Knicks spokesman confirms that Jeremy Lin's offer sheet will not be matched. @JLin7 is now officially a Rocket.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) July 18, 2012