Jeremy Lin’s Future With New York Knicks Is Dividing Fans

The have until Tuesday night to match a three-year, $25.1 million offer to Lin, the 23-year-old point guard sensation, or lose him to the . The contract devised by Houston contains a $14.98 million balloon payment in the final year: a provision that could cost the Knicks three times that amount in luxury-tax penalties under the N.B.A.’s restrictive new system.

So the debate now rages: to pay or not to pay. To invest in Lin’s enticing potential and popularity, or to let him leave.

Suddenly, everyone is a salary-cap expert, an economist, a scout and a chief executive.

“Got to let him go,” said Joe Anthony, a 38-year-old Brooklyn resident, speaking outside a sporting-goods store at 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue. “While he has all of the potential in the world, I think there’s a lot of question marks.”

Lin electrified Madison Square Garden and became a global star in February when he seized the Knicks’ point guard job and sparked a seven-game winning streak, saving their season. His made-for-Broadway story was irresistible: Harvard-educated. Undrafted. Overlooked. Waived twice. The son of Taiwanese immigrants. An Asian-American in a league with no others.

Lin’s No. 17 jersey became a top seller in days. “Linsanity” T-shirts flew off the racks at local sporting-good stores. Sports Illustrated put him on back-to-back covers. “Saturday Night Live” devoted skits to him. Restaurants named sandwiches and shakes after him. Creating Lin puns became a sport unto itself.

But Knicks fans are a tormented, anxious lot, scarred by years of bad basketball, bloated payrolls and underachieving players. The thought of devoting $25 million to a virtual rookie with a 26-game résumé strikes some fans as less than sane. Others cannot bear to see Lin leave, no matter the cost.

“I think for the last 10 years, people have had nothing to get excited about for the Knicks,” Nelson Park, 29, said while taking a smoking break outside a Midtown office building. “And finally, after one year, we have something. I mean, how many millions of dollars have they spent on other players?”

Outrage and despair filled blogs, message boards and Twitter timelines over the weekend, when word circulated that the Knicks were likely to let Lin go. Fans threatened to stop watching games, to cancel their season tickets, even to — gasp — switch allegiances to the Brooklyn Nets.

When the Knicks struck a deal Saturday night to acquire Raymond Felton, a veteran point guard, the prospect of losing Lin seemed more real than ever. A person briefed on the team’s thinking said it was highly unlikely the Knicks would match.

Two petitions aimed at reversing that fate were begun Sunday. One referred to Lin as “the best thing that has happened to New York Knicks basketball in the last 20 years.” It had 7,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon.

The emotions may be even stronger in Chinatown, where Lin-watching parties flourished in February. Wilson Tang, the 33-year-old owner of Nom Wah Tea Parlor, hosted some of those gatherings.

“The whole Linsanity thing was great,” Tang said. “It was great for New York. It was great for the Knicks. It was great for sales. It was great for Asian-Americans like myself, to see someone like that make it.”

Although Tang said it would pain him to see Lin go, he said his loyalty to the Knicks would not change, “because I’m a New York Knicks fan, not a Jeremy Lin fan.”

Another fan, Jeffrey Wong, said in an e-mail that he was “probably a little more caught up than most fans” when Linsanity erupted. He called the contractual debate “a little confusing and frustrating.”

“But I think in the end, if the Knicks don’t re-sign Jeremy, and even if they do, they come off looking like bumbling idiots,” Wong wrote.

Of course, Knicks fans are sadly accustomed to bumbling, ill-fated decisions.

Ken Belson and Tim Rohan contributed reporting.

Knicks Now Seem Set on Letting Lin Go

The Knicks cut ties with Lin on Tuesday night, ending a brief, spectacular and now-bittersweet love affair between Lin, a 23-year-old point guard, and an adoring fan base. Lin will play next season for the , who signed him to a three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet that the Knicks chose not to match.

The Knicks conveyed their intentions to Lin sometime after 10 p.m., less than two hours before the deadline to make the decision, and several hours after The New York Times reported that Lin would be let go.

After hours of silence, a Knicks spokesman ended any remaining suspense with a brief statement around 10:45 p.m., saying simply, “I can confirm we are not matching.” The Knicks offered no explanation or further comment. It was unclear when, or if, team officials would address the matter, but the Rockets said Lin would be introduced as a member of the team at a news conference Thursday.

The final decision for the Knicks rested with James L. Dolan, the Madison Square Garden chairman, and Dolan was the only one who could reverse it as the final hours ticked away Tuesday. But by midafternoon, a person briefed on the situation said the deliberations had ended.

“It is done,” the person said.

The decision was said to be financial, not emotional. Lin’s contract contains a third-year balloon payment of $14.9 million, which would have cost the Knicks another $35 million or more in luxury-tax penalties. This so-called poison pill was devised by the Rockets to dissuade the Knicks from matching, and it proved effective.

“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, said in a telephone interview. “But it’s hard to know what was the key to their decision.”

Because the Rockets are well below the luxury-tax threshold, Lin’s contract will cost them only its face value. Also, under the N.B.A.’s arcane rules, the Rockets will be charged an average of the salary, $8.37 million a year, for salary-cap purposes, instead of taking the $14.9 million hit in 2014-15. Thus, the deal is more manageable for the Rockets than it would have been for the Knicks.

Knicks officials ultimately concluded that it made more sense to pay two veteran point guards, Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton, a combined $7 million in 2014-15, than to spend $50 million or more to keep Lin, who has yet to play a full season as a starter.

So the Knicks’ most popular player in more than a decade, who rose from obscurity, saved their season and became a global sensation, is gone. He will join a young, rebuilding Rockets team that is pushing hard to land Dwight Howard, the Orlando Magic’s disgruntled star center.

Lin spent just 26 games as the Knicks’ primary point guard last season, but it was a memorable, often spectacular run, filled with buzzer-beating shots, dazzling passes and bold drives to the rim. It began with a seven-game winning streak that electrified the Garden and spawned a household word: Linsanity. Along the way, Lin outdueled Kobe Bryant in a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers and outshone Dirk Nowitzki to beat the Dallas Mavericks. His fame grew exponentially because of his unique profile: a Harvard graduate and Taiwanese-American who went undrafted and was waived twice before finding his niche with the Knicks.

A knee injury, and subsequent surgery, ended Lin’s magical run in late March. He averaged 18.5 points and 7.6 assists in that run — statistics that would place him among the N.B.A.’s top point guards if he had sustained them for a full season. Yet Lin also had an above-average turnover rate, and he struggled against some of the league’s top defensive teams, notably the Miami Heat, who harassed him into 1-for-11 shooting and eight turnovers on Feb. 23.

Despite Lin’s great promise, his portrait remains incomplete. He is clearly better than the scouting reports suggested when he went undrafted in 2010. Still unknown is whether he will be a star, a flash in the pan or merely a very good point guard. He was brilliant in the former coach Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system, but it was unknown how he might fare in the more traditional offense of D’Antoni’s successor, Mike Woodson.

Whatever he may become, it will happen with the Rockets, who have placed a great deal of faith and money in Lin.

Nate Taylor contributed reporting from Las Vegas.

Lin Adds Agent to Handle His Growing Marketing Demands

Jim Tanner, whose client list includes Tim Duncan, Ray Allen and Grant Hill, announced Thursday that he was now representing Lin, the ’ 23-year-old point guard.

Tanner’s law firm, Williams Connolly, based in Washington, will handle marketing, endorsements, licensing, personal appearances and other business opportunities for Lin, according to a news release.

Roger Montgomery, an agent based in San Antonio who has worked with Lin since he first entered the N.B.A., will handle Lin’s coming free agency “and other basketball-related matters.”

“I believe Jim and the team at Williams Connolly are the best fit for me in all aspects of my career,” Lin said in a statement, adding, “I am confident that Williams Connolly will provide me with the guidance I need to continue to develop personally and professionally.”

Lin, who became a breakout star this season, is poised to cash in on his newfound fame. He will be a restricted free agent as of July 1 and is expected to command more than $5 million a year in his next contract. The Knicks have the right to match any offer Lin receives, and team officials have said they intend to do so.

The free-agent negotiating period opens at midnight July 1, although deals cannot be consummated until July 11.

Lin’s family has been unhappy with his marketing and has been seeking a larger firm to handle it. Montgomery runs a relatively small agency, with only a handful of N.B.A. clients.

Montgomery did not return calls seeking comment.

Lin, who was little known when the season started, became an overnight global sensation in February, when he seized the Knicks’ point guard job and promptly led them on a seven-game winning streak filled with 20-point games and clutch shots. In his 26 games as an everyday player, Lin averaged 18.5 points and 7.7 assists.

Lin was undrafted out of Harvard in 2010 and was cut by two teams in December before the Knicks claimed him. The son of Taiwanese immigrants, he is the only current Asian-American player in the N.B.A.

Tanner joined Williams Connolly in 1997 and worked under Lon Babby, a partner at the firm who was building a practice representing professional basketball players. In 2010, Babby left the firm to become president of the Phoenix Suns.

The firm, which was started in 1967, is mainly known for its litigation prowess and its insider credentials in Washington. It represented Oliver North in the Iran-contra scandal and President Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial.

But the firm has also carved out a niche representing talent across the entertainment industry, and it is now representing Ann Curry as she negotiates her possible exit as a co-host of NBC’s “Today” show.

It is an unusual line of work for a corporate law firm, but Williams Connolly has always had an iconoclastic streak. While other elite Washington firms grew into global mega-firms, Williams Connolly, with 250 lawyers, has remained relatively small.

The firm has longstanding connections to the world of sports. Larry Lucchino, a former partner, is the Boston Red Sox’ chief executive. And Edward Bennett Williams, the firm’s founder, was the Baltimore Orioles’ owner and served as president of the Washington Redskins for 20 years.