In a move that could spell the end of the Jeremy Lin era in New York, the Knicks have agreed to acquire veteran point guard Raymond Felton in a sign-and-trade deal with the Portland Trailblazers. The New York Post cited a source that said the trade ends New York’s pursuit of Lin, a restricted free agent, who plays the same position as Felton. According to the New York Times, a television reporter in South Carolina said that Felton had told him that the Knicks planned to let Lin walk away to the Houston Rockets, with whom the former Harvard standout has signed an offer sheet.
The terms of the offer sheet, which the Knicks must match by Tuesday evening in order to retain Lin, likely preclude New York from re-signing Lin without greatly exceeding the salary cap in the future. Some sources, however, believe that the Knicks will still re-sign the international sensation, as the marketing value that Lin brings to New York far outweighs any luxury taxes the Knicks would pay from exceeding the salary cap.
Houston’s three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet includes a $14.8 million salary in the final year of the contract—an onerous figure for the Knicks that would mean New York would have $75 million committed to Lin, Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler in 2014-2015. It had been expected that Houston’s offer sheet would be for four years and approximately $29 million, with Lin earning no more than about $9 million in any single year.
Not bringing back Lin would mark a dramatic reversal for the team from the Big Apple. All previous indications were that the Knicks would match any offer sheet that Lin signed. Knicks Head Coach Mike Woodson has stated that not only would the team “absolutely” match any offer sheet for Lin, but also that Lin would be New York’s starting point guard. At last week’s press conference, where he was introduced as a new member of the Knicks, Jason Kidd spoke excitedly about serving as a mentor to Lin; and a source told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein last week, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that “[New York] will match any offer on Lin up to $1 billion.”
If the Felton deal does conclude Lin’s time in New York, Lin’s tenure with the Knicks will have ended just as quickly as it started—yet certainly much more acrimoniously. Last week, reports surfaced that Lin was unhappy with the Knicks for not offering him a contract before Houston; although, Lin quickly took to Twitter to refute these claims. Now, the New York Post is reporting that “the Knicks were bitter because they told Lin the club would match the original [four-year, $29 million] offer and Lin apparently shared the information with the Rockets, who decided to raise it.”
The Knicks have until Tuesday at 11:59pm to match Houston’s offer sheet or let Linsanity launch with the Rockets.