Lin Is Gone, and So Is the Buzz

That’s what the Modell’s sporting goods chain decided to do shortly after noon Wednesday, about 13 hours after the declined to match the ’ offer sheet to .

Lin T-shirts that were $20 got a new price of $5. Lin replica jerseys were discounted to $20 from $60. Lin’s $90 swingman jerseys were cut to $40.

To paraphrase Crazy Eddie, Modell’s prices were Linsane.

“This could be the biggest markdown on a traded player in our 123-year history,” said Mitchell Modell, the chief executive of the chain, which has 151 stores in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic but none in Houston. “I can’t think of anyone who’s close.”

Had sports retailing been mature in late 1919, maybe Babe Ruth T-shirts and extra-large pajamas at Filene’s Basement might have been deeply discounted after the Red Sox sold him to the Yankees.

Modell took a calculated gamble on Lin’s selling power when Lin’s playmaking ignited the Knicks in early February and led their surge into playoff contention. “He was sizzling,” Modell said. But after Lin tore the meniscus in his left knee in March, Modell’s was left with 40,000 Lin items to sell.

But Modell was not worried. Surely, Lin would heal and return. “Needless to say, we didn’t think he wouldn’t be playing for the Knicks,” he said, adding, “Now, Lin fans are going to have a field day.”

Lin Knicks apparel is still for sale at the N.B.A. store online, but none of his Rockets merchandise is ready (there is plenty of Hakeem Olajuwon stuff available, however). Adidas will soon churn out Lin jerseys, but until then, Rockets fans can personalize the online retailer’s stock of blank Houston jerseys with Lin’s name and number, said Sal LaRocca, the N.B.A.’s executive vice president of global merchandising. He added, “That’s what has happened with Steve Nash,” the former Suns star who recently joined the Lakers.

Its effect on cotton and polyester mesh aside, Lin’s departure from New York leaves the MSG Network without the accidental star whose point guard play galvanized a team that lacked cohesion or adhesion.

He made the team work efficiently and did it at times without Carmelo Anthony or Amar’e Stoudemire. Bit players like Steve Novak shined. Lin brought hope and joy to a fan base accustomed to misery. He made fans talk about what he and the team did the night before. On Jim Dolan’s Seventh Avenue island of misfit toys, Lin was nearly the beau ideal: Buzz Lightyear of Madison Square Garden.

The Garden embraced Lin gleefully, even as teams caught up to him and he grew fatigued and then got hurt. Almost daily, the network’s public relations department issued releases that extolled the ratings.

Before Lin’s breakout game in early February, MSG’s 19 games averaged a 1.83 rating; the next 36 games (including the last 17 that Lin sat out) averaged a 4.07. One can argue that the Lin sensation helped end a 48-day impasse between MSG and Time Warner Cable — and that the Garden benefited financially from the settlement. At the time, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that the fans’ clamoring to see Lin in blacked-out Time Warner households “heightened the pressure” to make a deal.

“Anthony and Stoudemire didn’t stir up the excitement that Lin did,” said Darin David, an account director at the Marketing Arm, a sports and entertainment marketing firm based in Dallas. Still, he said, “Lin had such a limited body of work that you couldn’t be sure he would be able to replicate it.”

David said that by letting Lin go — for some rational financial reasons, to be sure — the Knicks’ brand had been diminished just as it appeared to be on the upswing. (One of Dolan’s legacies as the team’s owner, through family-run Cablevision and now, MSG, will be the serial diminution of the Knicks’ brand.)

“The excitement was so much higher during Lin’s brief run, and even though he was injured there was still some carry-over about next season,” David said. “When a team runs across something like that, you want to take advantage of it for as long as you can.”


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