SPORTS WATCH
Knicks Fail PR Test With Jeremy Lin Decision
by Gus Jarvis
Jul 19, 2012 | 1793 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print

For the record, I’ve never been any sort of New York Knicks fan, and now that the team has decided to get rid of Jeremy Lin, I know I’ll never be a New York Knicks fan.

In news that broke late Tuesday evening, which was, at one point the lead story on The New York Times homepage, Lin is going to the Houston Rockets.

Big city, bright lights New York couldn’t match the Rockets offer for Lin, who ultimately signed him to a three-year deal worth $25.1 million. For Lin, Lin’s fans, and Knicks fans in general, the last few days must have been kind of weird knowing that Houston had an offer on the table, knowing that New York could match the offer, yet representatives of the Knicks organization chose to put a moratorium on any public statements on the matter and simply remained silent up until Tuesday evening’s deadline when a decision had to made.

It was about 8:45 p.m. on Tuesday, according to the Times, when the Knicks broke their silence on the matter and a team spokesman said, “I can confirm we are not matching.” There was no other comment, explanation or apology to Knicks fans for the decision. That was it, time to move on, I guess. Is it me or is the Knicks organization acting really weird about not signing Lin? Why the silence? Why no explanation? I’d say Lin deserves an explanation or at the very least a public thanks for being a Knick and making our team interesting again.

For whatever reason, the New York Knicks don’t seem to know anything about good public relations. And New York is the public relations city if there ever was one. Perhaps the Knicks really don’t care what their fans think? Of course we know that the decision to let Lin go was purely financial. The third year of Lin’s contract contains a balloon payment of $14.9 million. That’s a tough financial pill to swallow for a point guard who’s yet to start an entire season in the NBA.

On top of that, the balloon payment would have cost the Knicks another $35 million or more in luxury-tax penalties. Because the Rockets are far below the luxury-tax threshold, Lin’s contract will only cost them face value, according to the Times.

To pay nearly $50 million for Lin’s three-year deal seems like an understandable deal breaker, yet the Knicks chose to remain silent. Why not explain to Knicks fans that it’s just too expensive? Simply say we want to keep Lin really bad but we just can’t afford to match that offer? Silence.

Another avenue in explaining their decision is that the the Knicks could publicly call out the Houston organization for adding that third-year balloon payment just because they knew the Knicks would get dinged with the luxury tax penalty. Get mad at Houston for doing that. Hell, even the executives with the Rockets don’t really know what was the deal breaker.

“We were comfortable with the money we were going to give Jeremy, and we hoped they wouldn’t match,” Daryl Morey, the Rockets’ general manager, told the Times. “But it’s hard to know what was the key to their decision.”

On paper, it seems understandable that the Knicks can’t afford the young point guard who’s prone to injury and hasn’t really proven himself yet. At the same time, it’s New York, they should be able to afford a player that’s so popular with fans. I know, it’s a business deal. They did what’s best for the team. But is letting Lin go really what’s best for the team?

Lin played in 26 games last year as the team’s primary point guard, and as we all know he was unbelievable in that stint. He was the talk of all sports media. His crazy last second shots and exciting drives to the rim were highlights we all weren’t used to seeing out of New York. For a brief period of time, Lin turned New York back into a basketball town. Fans of all ages lined up right behind Spike Lee to buy a new Lin jersey. Basketball at Madison Square Garden was back and exciting as ever. Hell, Lin even pulled the headlines from Tim Tebow, who always finds himself at the top of the charts.

Maybe Lin’s brief basketball greatness last year was just that: A brief period of greatness. Or maybe Lin really is as good as we all saw and is worth every penny of a high-priced contract. Perhaps Lin may not be the perfect piece to a championship puzzle, but something must be said for the moneymaking popularity he brings to the team. Houston obviously sees this and is willing to take the risk. New York, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to see this. Right now, even a mediocre Lin is good for business. Everybody loves him.

Which is why it’s so weird the New York Knicks are currently showing no remorse for not being able to match Houston’s offer and keep Lin in New York. If the Knicks don’t know it already, they should realize that there will be another New York team playing next year. I doubt a lot of those depressed Lin fans would think twice about jumping the Knicks ship and heading over to Brooklyn to root for the Nets. Or even Houston, for that matter. I know I would.

If anything, maybe the Knicks should take some of the money they saved by not signing Lin’s contract and putting it toward some PR. They need someone to go before a microphone and at least act like they care.

gjarvis@watchnewspapers.com or @GusJarvis

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