Jeremy Lin: “Honestly, I preferred New York”

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Just a week ago, it seemed an impossible idea that Jeremy Lin would be anything but a Knick. They were going to match any offer “up to a billion dollars.”

Actually, the number was more like $25.1 million. The Knicks let Lin walk.

The Rockets and Lin had gone outside tradition but did nothing illegal and upped his offer. The Knicks decided to roll the dice on Raymond Felton, a player who was an out-of-shape mess for the Blazers last season. Fans in New York are less than thrilled.

Some fans blamed Lin for leaving, but this was on the Knicks. They could have kept him, they chose not to make him an offer or match the deal. Lin opened up to Sports Illustrated about what happened, and said he would have preferred to stay a Knick.

“Honestly, I preferred New York,” Lin says. “But my main goal in free agency was to go to a team that had plans for me and wanted me. I wanted to have fun playing basketball. … Now I’m definitely relieved…

“I love the New York fans to death,” Lin says. “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.”

In the interview Lin talks about how the Knicks said they wanted him back, they told him he would be a starter, but were honest that they would talk to other point guards as well. And he reminds everyone it was the Knicks that steered him to go out on the open market and see what contract he could find. The Knicks never offered him a deal, Lin signed the offer sheet from the Rockets in part because it was the only formal offer ever given him.

He also talks about wanting to play in the playoffs but his knee just not letting him.

“People think it was easy for me to sit there and watch us lose, like I had nothing to do with the season,” Lin says. “I was dying to play. I didn’t miss a game due to injury in seven years until this past season, and people are acting like I wouldn’t want to play in the playoffs? Of the NBA? In my first season?”

Lin in Houston is not going to be quite the same, because in part the talent around him is different (they have shooters but no pick-and-roll big to match Tyson Chandler). And in part because it’s not New York and the frenzy around hoops that team and city creates.