Count on the team’s passionate fan base to over-analyze Raymond Felton’s play as Lin’s successor in each and every game next season while keeping a close eye on Lin’s development with the Rockets. Will the Knicks be kicking themselves? Only time will tell.
But in his first interview as a member of the Houston Rockets, Lin expressed his remorse for leaving a city that launched his career.
“Honestly, I preferred New York,” the undrafted 23-year-old told Sports Illustrated’s Pablo S. Torre. “But my main goal in free agency was to go to a team that had plans for me and wanted me. I wanted to have fun playing basketball. ... Now I’m definitely relieved.”
All along the Knicks’ brass made clear their intention to match any offer from another team. But Houston’s backloaded $25.1 million contract changed their outlook.
Lin told SI.com that his conversation with Knicks General Manager Glen Grunwald was brief.
“We wanted to keep you, but it couldn’t work out. Tell your family I say hello, and good luck the rest of the way.”
When the Knicks completed a sign-and-trade deal with Portland Monday that brought Felton back to the Big Apple, Lin’s status became increasingly cloudy.
Still, many expected New York to do whatever it took to re-sign a player who energized the fan base and instantly became a global marketing sensation.
“I know the Knicks organization wanted him back, I know his teammates wanted him back, I felt like Jeremy wanted to come back, but can’t pass up what Houston threw out there,” Knicks center Tyson Chandler said while training with the U.S. Olympic team in London.
As he did last season, Lin said all the right things in the wake of his signing.
“I love the New York fans to death. That’s the biggest reason why I wanted to return to New York,” Lin told SI.com. “The way they embraced me, the way they supported us this past season, was better than anything I’ve ever seen or experienced. I’ll go to my grave saying that. What New York did for me was unbelievable. I wanted to play in front of those fans for the rest of my career.”
Many of those fans wish the Knicks — who have yet to comment publicly on the decision to let their point guard walk — had made Lin’s wish come true.