In a touching scene that instantly went viral, Jeremy Lin peered through his computer screen and, across thousands of miles, tried his best to console a heartbroken young Knicks fan. The has been viewed nearly 167,000 times since it was posted to YouTube on Aug. 6. It lasts 9 minutes 18 seconds.That is 9 minutes 18 seconds more than the Knicks have devoted to consoling their still-reeling fans.
Friday marks the one-month anniversary of the Knicks’ decision to let Lin leave for Houston. Not a single team official has stepped forward to explain the move. It appears no team official will say anything until media day, on Oct. 1.
By then, two and a half months will have passed, giving the Knicks a convenient and self-created loophole: That’s old news. The approved script will no doubt be, “We’re looking forward” and “We’re focused on the players who are here” and “Look, Raymond Felton lost weight!”
It almost surely will not include a meaningful explanation of why the Knicks let their most popular player in a decade leave, rather than match a three-year, $25 million contract. Commenting runs counter to the Knicks’ prevailing, almost-pathological culture of silence.
James L. Dolan, the Madison Square Garden chairman, , and he prefers that his lieutenants say as little as possible. Glen Grunwald, the general manager, has spoken publicly only twice since the Knicks’ season ended in May. He rarely spoke during the season, either.
When the N.B.A. fined J. R. Smith $25,000 in March, the Knicks declined to comment. They remained silent on a bench warrant in May. They said nothing in a private message to a fan (which drew a $50,000 fine from the N.B.A.).
And they steadfastly maintained their see-no-evil, speak-no-evil stance after Jason Kidd, their new point guard, in July.
Knicks officials are under no obligation to acknowledge employee misdeeds – or even their own blunders – but ignoring the concerns of an already-beleaguered fan base is just bad business.
Season subscribers who spent thousands to renew their plans last spring deserve to know why Lin will be making one Garden appearance next season, instead of 41. Fans who flocked to the Garden, gathered around television sets in Chinatown and wrapped themselves in Linsanity T-shirts want to know why their hero is now wearing Rockets red, instead of Knicks blue.
For the most ardent Lin loyalists, no rationale may suffice. But a reasoned explanation might assuage the nerves of a fan base that has been served nothing but anguish and humiliation for the last 10 years.
Instead, the blanks have been filled in by anonymous sources offering competing explanations. Some said the Knicks let Lin walk because they feared a $35 million luxury-tax bill in 2015. Others asserted that Dolan acted out of spite, in response to Lin’s signing the deal after initially agreeing to a lower figure with the Rockets.
The only point not in dispute is that the Knicks “absolutely” intended to match the first offer, for $19.5 million. Coach Mike Woodson said so on July 10, three days before Lin signed the richer deal.
Even as they moved to acquire Felton – in a complicated sign-and-trade deal with Portland – Knicks officials left the door open to Lin’s return. According to one person’s account, had the Felton deal collapsed (a real possibility), the Knicks would have kept Lin. But given a choice of Felton at $3.5 million a year, or Lin at $8.3 million (with a $15 million balloon payment in 2014-15), the Knicks chose Felton.
Of course, fiscal discipline has never been the Knicks’ way, so the skepticism is more than warranted. And herein lies the Knicks’ other problem: they lack credibility. The stunning decision to allow Lin to leave, with zero explanation, has further strained relations with their fans.
A month later, the same questions remain:
If the issue was money, then why not keep Lin for two years (at $5.3 million per year) and then reshuffle the payroll or trade him before the third year%3F
Do the Knicks truly view Felton – an average point guard coming off a disastrous season – as an upgrade? Do they believe that Jason Kidd, at age 39, can carry the load if Felton falters?
If Lin’s $15 million salary in 2014-15 seemed risky and burdensome, then why commit nearly the same amount to the iffy combination of Kidd (41 in 2014), Marcus Camby (40), Felton and Steve Novak?
Yet the greatest question might be this: Given the franchise’s vast resources, astronomical ticket prices and years of bad basketball, why not overspend a little to reward a dispirited fan base?
The answers will not come until Oct. 1. Or possibly not at all.
“In a couple of weeks, it will be O.K.,” Lin told Naim, the 5-year-old fan in the video chat. “There’s a lot of really good players on that team still.”
If only the Knicks cared enough to say as much.
This is a more complete version of the story than the one that appeared in print.
PHOTO: Jeremy Lin, whom the Knicks let leave for the Rockets, at a basketball clinic on the outskirts of Beijing last week. (PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDY WONG/ASSOCIATED PRESS)