This is where many get the NBA luxury tax wrong: The third year on the offer sheet extended by the Rockets to Jeremy Lin will not cost the Knicks $43 million when factoring in the luxury tax, as some have extrapolated.
It will cost the Knicks the $15 million on the third year of that contract.
The excess payroll will cost the Knicks $43 million.
And that is a point executives familiar with such situations are quick to point out: Just because a player is the last, or latest, contract added to a team’s salary pool, it doesn’t make it the one that puts the team into — in this case, excessively into — the luxury tax.
It is the sum of the entire payroll.
For now, the debate in New York, and among Lin-sanity observers elsewhere, is whether the Knicks can afford to retain Lin amid such a huge potential luxury-tax hit.
But that also overlooks the bigger picture, that by trading for Carmelo Anthony’s huge salary, by signing Amare Stoudemire to such an excessive salary and by putting so much cash into Tyson Chandler’s limited game, the next big salary on the Knicks’ books was always going to be the one that was going to lead to luxury-tax Armageddon.
The Knicks forestalled the initial hit by using an amnesty claim with Chauncey Billups before last season. They then thought they could get by on the cheap at point guard when Baron Davis came along at a minimal salary.
And then Lin-sanity ensued (in retrospect, if only it had been Bibby-sanity . . .).
In 2014-15, the season of excess in the Rockets’ offer sheet to Lin, Anthony and Stoudemire each will be earning $23 million, with Chandler earning $15 million.
That is why the tax is an issue.
Of course, if Lin is retained, an argument could be made about Raymond Felton’s salary not only contributing to the excessive tax overage, but being unnecessary.
With the NBA moving away from offensively limited big men, moving Chandler won’t be easy. With so many injury issues, you can just about forget about moving Stoudemire’s uninsurable deal. And Anthony is the supposed cornerstone.
If those three are the core, then the Knicks just move on from Lin.
But it’s not Lin’s contract, alone, that has created such pause. It’s all the contracts. Collectively. Knicks-sanity, if you will.
Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.