A few minutes after the pictures of the Toyota Center covered in Carmelo Anthony in Rockets gear hit the internet, many started noticing something odd about the photos. Carmelo Anthony was depicted in a Rockets jersey with his number 7, the same number that incumbent guard Jeremy Lin has worn with the Rockets. Jeremy Lin, predictably enough, was not pleased, taking to social media to express his disappointment. Daryl Morey addressed those concerns after the meeting with Anthony today, frankly discussing the awkward nature of this business.
Here's what Morey had to say, courtesy of Mark Berman of Fox 26:
It's always a challenging situation during free agency. You are always having to recruit players and there might be current players at current positions, might be people with the current numbers. It's unfortunate that it's often hard to handle. Reality is it's standard practice. When we went after Chris Bosh a few years ago, we had him in Luis Scola's number. When we went after Dwight Howard he had [Patrick] Beverley's number. I get the sensitivity and I hate that it creates some hurt feelings. I don't like that, but that's obviously Carmelo Anthony's number, that's the number he wants. He told us that. Bottomline, if Carmelo comes Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin have to be traded. It's just math. It's not personal. My job is every day [to] figure out how to win. Sometimes it creates challenging situations.
It's not what Lin wants to hear, but he's right. Basketball is a business and if the Rockets can convince Anthony to come to Houston, they will move Lin without a second thought. None of that is a surprise. The only surprising thing is Morey's willingness to acknowledge that fact publicly. If I were Lin, I wouldn't be pleased, but I would try to accept that this is just reality in a very cut throat league.
It's situations like these that hammer home all the reasons why I would never fault a player for getting as much money as possible on the open market. Teams owe nothing to the players, so why should a player feel the same towards a team? When James Harden pushed for a max extension from Oklahoma City, why should he feel like he owes anything to the team? This is a league where if you are not good enough, you get pushed out if the team can find something better, and Lin could be a casualty in all of this.
Perhaps I'm reading between the lines too much here, but Morey sounds like a GM that isn't planning on keeping Lin around. If he was planning on holding onto Lin, I don't think he would make a comment like this in a public setting. I only say this because if the Rockets do end up striking out on Anthony and go into the season with Lin on the roster, it could create a situation reminiscent of Kevin Martin post-veto where he knows he is not wanted by the team and feels personally offended. Lin is a tough competitor and I have no doubts he would play hard for the Rockets regardless, but it does create a bit of locker room tension. Let's just hope that never becomes a concern.