What’s the most you’ve ever paid for a t-shirt? Come on, whether or not you wear them with frequency, you can’t deny that you’ve paid a little too much for a t-shirt at one point or another in your clothes purchasing lifetime. I’ve probably been guilty of committing this crime one too many times, but I wasn’t yesterday.
As I strolled through my local sporting goods store looking at sneakers but wandering off to the basketball apparel section, there were several things that really stood out to me. First, was the amount of Steve Novak jerseys. Living in New York City, I usually don’t see more than two, three at the very max jerseys of New York Knicks players at the stores, and “Novak Strokavic” was the fourth Knicks jersey I spotted, sitting next to Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Carmelo Anthony.
And while I couldn’t find any of their point guards represented on the hanger racks, I found what I considered to be a bargain just a little bit to the left of the Knicks gear. It was a Knicks jersey t-shirt, number 17, the back said Linsanity, and the price was five dollars.
While I didn’t pick up the shirt and think “I’m going to wear this to every game I go to this season,” I did think “$5 dollars for the memories that this man provided for the basketball team I cheer for? Done.”
Jeremy Lin’s departure from the Knicks undoubtedly left an awful taste in the mouths of most Knicks fans, but I don’t think it’s fair to look at the situation with the emotion that most have looked at it with. I’m going to base that statement by one, and only one question: is the team better this season than they were last season?
Let’s take a look back at Lin’s tenure with the Knicks, and appreciate the “Linsanity” run for what it was. Having scored just 32 points in 55 minutes over the first 24 games of the season, the Knicks found themselves in need of a boost during an early February matchup with the not quite yet rival New Jersey Nets. Lin came off the bench and poured in 25 points, 7 assists, and 5 boards in 36 minutes. Anthony and Stoudemire combined to go 9-26 from the floor that night, but the Knicks won thanks to the efforts of one of the last men on the bench.
The Knicks entered their next game 10-15, and got bad news prior to a Monday night home game against the Utah Jazz. Stoudemire’s brother was killed in an automobile accident, and the star forward would be out indefinitely. As if things couldn’t get worse, Anthony injured his groin in the first quarter that night, which would lead to his absence over the next couple of weeks as well.
I remember being at that game, and thinking as Anthony went down, “things couldn’t be worse for this Knicks team right now.” Lin came off the bench against the Jazz, led the Knicks to a win, and brought heroics and leadership to a team that was sorely lacking chemistry. Lin got the most out of guys like Jared Jeffries, Steve Novak, and his now former roommate Landry Fields, leading the Knicks to 7-straight wins, and almost single-handedly bringing the team back to .500 in time for Stoudemire to return.
What we saw in the following months was that Lin had limits, and the strength of the team wasn’t depending on Lin maximizing the guys around him, but Anthony playing the role of team leader. As Lin’s season came to a halt in late March, Anthony averaged 29.8 points per game for the month of April, picking up the teams pieces, and willing the Knicks into the playoffs with a 12-5 record without Lin.
While it didn’t seem like you could ever rationally make the argument Lin or Anthony, many fans have. What more did Anthony need to do to prove his worth? With rather limited shooters and a seemingly lost looking Stoudemire, the Knicks have one of the best scorers in the league, they needed to put the right pieces around him heading into this season. As much as Baron Davis and Mike Bibby looked better than Anthony Carter and Toney Douglas from the year before, is there any doubt that Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton should, and will surpass their production? The team has taken a stance to committing to defense as well, as not only are both Kidd and Felton tremendous upgrades over Lin, but Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas, and Ronnie Brewer are all very proven and skilled defenders.
Should the Knicks not have gone after Felton, or Kidd? While it would have been ideal to keep Lin as a back-up to Kidd/potential combo guard to fill either bench or starting duties, the Knicks loved what they saw when they teamed Felton with Stoudemire in 2010, and they flat out didn’t want to pay a $25 million contract to a guy who’s body of work includes 20-something games.
Do I agree with the Knicks not paying him? No, I really don’t. I think if things didn’t work out they could’ve tried to move the contract, or they could have released him his last season (where he was owed approximately $15 million) and had the ability to pay it over three seasons, which would be much less damaging to their yearly budget. Or, they could have just swallowed the contract and did what they thought they were doing when they initially signed him, sit him on the back of the bench.
The money that Lin brought in to the Knicks organization was well worth giving back to him, and the damage that has clearly been done (and then some) to one of the most loyal, yet noticeably frustrated, fan bases probably wasn’t worth what may be a difficult, but could be an easy process, figuring out what to do with his contract. It’s not like a $15 million expiring contract hasn’t been valuable in the NBA for the last decade or so.
But I digress, as when you root for a team owned by James Dolan, you can’t argue being told down is up, left is right, and dark is light.
With that said, I do thoroughly believe that the Knicks had another quality offseason as far as adding needs to the team. Re-signing Novak was a must, and if JR Smith can continue to give the effort he gives night-in and night-out and try to limit mistakes, his signing was a great move for the team.
It’s unfair to keep cycling in new players every season; this Knicks roster knows they have a limited time frame, and the team’s star has repeatedly said that he’s ready to win. Knicks fans need to keep perspective about the progress that the roster has made, and as helpful as Jeremy Lin was to last seasons high points, we’re still talking about a team that won one playoff game, which he didn’t even play in.
I’ll never forget being at Madison Square Garden that magical night when Linsanity really kicked in. But at the same time, I’ll never forget the black hole I felt like I entered when I realized Stoudemire and Anthony weren’t going to be playing that night. Even if I feel like Dolan cut off his nose despite his face by not bringing Lin back, I know deep inside he did put together the best set of players he could assemble for next seasons effort.
And if not, at least I can wear my $5 shirt and watch some Houston Rockets games.
For hoops, hip-hop and other random sports and pop culture commentary, follow Jared Mintz on Twitter @JaredMintzTruth