The year 2012 will be remembered as the year of Jeremy Lin for many New York Knicks fans. Despite only appearing in 35 games (25 starts), Jeremy Lin had plenty of moments during the 2011-2012 lockout-shortened season that had Madison Square Garden rocking.
Lin’s first real opportunity with the Knicks came on February 4, 2012, against the New Jersey Nets. In nearly 36 minutes of action, Lin scored 25 points on 10-19 shooting while adding 7 assists, out-dueling All-Star point guard Deron Williams in the Knicks victory.
After that performance, former Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni inserted Lin into the starting lineup, and the birth of Linsanity began. The Knicks won the first six games with Lin in the starting lineup, and Lin put up averages of 24.3 points on 51% shooting, along with 9.5 assists in those six games.
Lin had a 38 point game against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers during the win streak in which he shot unconsciously. He put up 28 points and 8 assists against the Utah Jazz. He added another 23 points and 10 assists against the Washington Wizards. He scored 27 points and dished out 11 assists in a win against the Toronto Raptors, which included him nailing the game-winning 3-pointer.
Boy, was it exciting to be a Knicks fan, especially for Lin’s first two weeks getting real game action for the team.
Lin’s was not able to sustain the numbers he was putting up early on, but that was to be expected. He put together a complete clunker against the eventual champion, Miami Heat, in which he shot 1-11 from the field and turned the ball over eight times. On March 24, 2012, Lin suffered what at the time was thought to be a minor knee injury against the Detroit Pistons. It was later revealed Lin had a partial meniscus tear in his left knee, and he would not suit up for the Knicks again that season.
There were all sorts of rumors that Lin would be able to suit up in the playoffs in their first-round matchup against the Heat, but that never happened even though Lin said he was “85%” ready to go. The Knicks were forced to play Baron Davis, who was well past his prime, and another point guard well past his prime in Mike Bibby, once Davis went down to injury. The Knicks had no chance, and lost in five games to Miami.
Lin was to become a free agent, and it was assumed widely that the Knicks would re-sign him. Walk down any street in New York City, and there was bound to be two or three people wearing Jeremy Lin’s #17 Knicks jersey. How could the Knicks let one of their most popular players in recent history walk away?
Lin was a restricted free agent, meaning that the Knicks could match any offer granted to him. The Houston Rockets offered Lin a 3 year-$25 million contract. This was what is known as a “poison pill” contract though, where Lin would make around $5 million each of the first two seasons, and then make close to $15 million in the third year.
The Knicks decided that was a contract they did not want to match, so they let Lin go, and instead signed Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd to play point guard the next season. Linsanity in New York City was over, not even half a year after it began.
Lin started all 82 games for the Rockets in the 2012-13 season, on a team that went 45-37, losing in six games to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the opening round of the playoffs. Lin put up averages of 13.4 points and 6.1 assists for the season, but had an awful four playoff games against the Thunder.
The following season, Lin lost his starting job almost halfway through the season to Patrick Beverly. While his shooting numbers had improved from the past season, his assists dropped to 4.1 per game, while also turning the ball over 2.5 times per game.
Heading into the 2014 offseason, the Rockets were looking to clear cap space in order to have a chance to go after big-name free agents such as Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh. Lin was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, due in part to the $15 million he would be owed that year.
Once it was announced that Steve Nash would miss the entire season, Lin would have another chance to prove himself as a starting point guard. Again, about halfway through the season, Lin was benched; this time for Jordan Clarkson. In 74 games (30 starts), Lin averaged 11.2 points and 4.6 assists for the season.
The 3-year contract Lin was given is now over, making him a free agent once again. There have been reports that the Knicks may be interested in bringing Lin back to the fold. Should the Knicks bring back Lin, allowing many of their fans to grab their #17 Knicks jersey from the back of their closet to start wearing again?
First, it is unclear where Lin would fit on the roster. The Knicks made a draft-day deal, acquiring the 19th overall selection in last Thursday’s draft, point guard Jerian Grant, in exchange for Tim Hardaway Jr.
They still have Jose Calderon on the books for $7.4 million this season. They also have second team All-Rookie member, Langston Galloway. The Knicks could also look to bring back Alexey Shved, who performed well in his 16 games with the team after acquiring him for Pablo Prigioni.
The Knicks could look to trade Calderon, after a very disappointing past season.
There just seems to be more pressing needs for the Knicks, who are coming off a 17-65 season. The fourth overall selection, Kristaps Porzingis, may need a couple years to develop, so the Knicks should look to sign a couple big men.
If Jeremy Lin were to come back to the Knicks, it would be unfair to expect him to duplicate the numbers he was putting up when he first starting receiving playing time with the team. It has been three seasons since that occurred, and he has been benched twice since then. While showing spurts of being a quality point guard in those three seasons, it has not happened often enough to believe he can be a full-time starting point guard in the NBA.
A team can do much worse than Lin as a backup point guard. Lin is still one of the more well-known players in the league, and is coming off a year in which he made $15 million. While no team will offer him close to that, there is a team that may offer him more than his market value due to his notoriety.
The Knicks shouldn’t be the team to do that.