10:33 am Jul. 19, 2012
If it is inconceivable to you that Jeremy Lin merchandise is available at cut rates at the Knicks store, alongside Toney Douglas shirts, Chauncey Billups jerseys and even the entire Ronny Turiaf collection, it was just as shocking to Lin himself.
Lin gave an interview to Sports Illustrated's Pablo Torre in which he essentially confirms what has been reported, while debunking the whispers about him that were leaked following New York's abrupt turnaround on bringing him back.
In June, Lin flew to Los Angeles for the chance to have dinner with coach Mike Woodson, and came away extremely excited about his role with the Knicks. But when free agency began, the Knicks advised Lin that they would not be making him an offer, instead letting the restricted free agent sign elsewhere, and then matching. This was better for Lin's bottom line, anyway—he could make more in an offer sheet from another team than the Knicks could pay him outright.
Lin and the Houston Rockets had first agreed on a four-year, $28.8 million deal, with $19.5 million guaranteed. Though Lin had no communication with the Knicks during this time, he had no reason to think the Knicks had changed their minds about matching—see the public statements about "absolutely" doing so.
That's when Houston came back to him with a revised offer sheet—this one with the higher guaranteed salary in year three. Lin signed the offer sheet, as anybody would. Still, no word from the Knicks. Remember, the Knicks had told Lin to come back to them with an offer sheet. And Lin had no reason to do so sooner—the Knicks couldn't offer him as much outright, anyway.
But once they learned of the offer, the Knicks still didn't reach out to Lin. Instead, they acquired Felton. And when Lin saw that the Knicks had acquired Felton, he finally realized—along with his many fans—that his time in New York might be coming to an end.
"Felton's signing was the first time when I thought, 'Oh, wow, I might not be a Knick,'" Lin said.
Lin didn't hear from the Knicks until late Tuesday night, a 30-second call to tell him they weren't matching and wish him well. If there truly were deliberations over whether or not to match Lin's offer, the Knicks didn't bother to hear from Lin himself.
Lin addressed the silly criticism about whether he should have come back last year, not yet fully recovered from knee surgery, in the playoffs as well. He had said he was 85 percent—he clarified that he was 85 percent of the way to the minimum threshhold needed to play. Lin couldn't yet reach the rim, meaning he simply wouldn't have been very effective. Add in the fact that the Knicks doctors hadn't cleared him to play and the risk for re-injury, and the decision becomes an obvious one, unless the desire is to look for a reason to slam Lin.
How clear was it? Even James Dolan, the Knicks' owner, thought Lin shouldn't play.
"I have plans for you in the future," Lin recalled the owner saying. "This is a long-term investment. Don't rush back."
Those plans have been irrevocably changed. And now, Knicks fans get to hear that Lin saw the future, as recently as last Friday, exactly as they saw it themselves.
"I love the New York fans to death," Lin said. "That's the biggest reason why I wanted to return to New York. The way they embraced me, the way they supported us this past season, was better than anything I've ever seen or experienced. I'll go to my grave saying that. What New York did for me was unbelievable. I wanted to play in front of those fans for the rest of my career."