Now what, Jeremy Lin?
I don’t mean the next six weeks — that is surgery and rehab for the torn meniscus in his knee. He’ll work hard with the hopes of joining the Knicks in the playoffs. But by the time he is back and able to really help, it may well be too late.
But that’s not what I’m talking about, I am talking about next season — Lin could leave the Knicks.
He could. But he won’t. The Knicks will overpay to keep him. However, Lin will have some options (we like to call that leverage) and those will put more money in his pocket. And every dollar he gets will make it harder for the Knicks to make upgrades this offseason.
Allow me to explain (if you want a more detailed explanation, Knickerblogger has it). Lin is on a one-year deal so Lin’s contract is up and he will be a restricted free agent this summer. Other teams can make him an offer. Here’s where it gets tricky: Because Lin was waived before he came to the Knicks, New York does not have his “early Bird rights,” meaning it can’t go over the salary cap to sign him. And the Knicks are already over the cap for next season.
The best offer the Knicks can make is 125 percent of the $762,195 he made this year — basically $1 million. If that is all it costs to steal Lin you could be sure a number of teams would swoop in with better offers. Lin has established himself as an NBA point guard (we can debate if he should start or be a backup, but he belongs in the league) and the going rate for a decent point guard is a lot more than $1 million.
However, the Knicks have other options and most likely the team will use either their bi-annual exception ($2 million) or some portion of their mid-level exception (up to $5 million) to keep him. Under the CBA no other team could offer Lin more than $5 million for next season, so the Knicks can offer just as much and it’s unlikely he would leave.
But whatever exception money the Knicks use on Lin they cannot use to bring in other free agents. For example Steve Nash as the starting point guard (who they may struggle to get anyway as they just canned the coach he liked to play for), or a backup big man, or a host of other players out on the market. Those exceptions are the key way the Knicks can upgrade the roster but they will have to spend part of it on Lin.
The Knicks will do it. If it costs $5 million to keep Lin they would do it. Not because it’s the right basketball move — they would be overpaying him at that price — but because it’s the right business move. Lin is a marketing force. He draws sponsors, and sells tickets and jerseys. Even if Linsanity has cooled off he is a hot international marketing tool. The NBA is a business and at whatever price the Knicks can pay they will get it back many times over by having Lin on the roster.
So Jeremy Lin will almost certainly be a Knick next year. But we will have to wait and see how much that impacts the rest of the Knicks roster next season.