Imagine for a moment you’re in charge of making personnel decisions for the New York Knicks. One of your star players—the point guard who resuscitated your team’s most recent season—gets an offer to play elsewhere for what one of his teammates called a “ridiculous” amount. You’ve promised to match any offer for him in the past, but matching this one could cost you $50 to $60 million in salary and “luxury tax” in the 2014-2015 season, according to one report. You’ve recently signed two veteran players in the point guard position.
And yet, whether or not to release him isn’t so clear. Fans love the star, signing online petitions to get him to stay. He is a global marketing powerhouse, the first Taiwanese American to play in the NBA and, at just 23-years old, has an entire career’s worth of merchandising, sponsorships and ratings boosts ahead of him. And now, one of those other point guards has gone and been arrested for drunk driving.
We’re talking, of course, about Linsanity: Round Two, in which the Knicks management must make a call by midnight Tuesday night about whether to match the offer by the Houston Rockets for Jeremy Lin, the undrafted Knicks sensation from last season. Because Lin is a restricted free agent, general manager Glen Grunwald and owner James Dolan have the opportunity to match any offer made for him.
Some are already saying it’s very unlikely Lin will return. Others are reporting the way the deal was renegotiated, giving Lin an even more lucrative contract, rubbed Dolan the wrong way. Some think the Knicks would be crazy to give up Lin, while others say he’s just not worth the money.
Fans may have rallied behind the Linsanity phenomenon, but phenomenons fade—and $50 to $60 million is a lot to pay for something so ephemeral. At the same time, he is young, clearly talented, and it’s hard to argue with pinning 38 points and seven assists on the Los Angeles Lakers.
Whatever the Knicks management decides to do, it shouldn’t just be about Lin’s marketing potential or the cost to keep him, although those are both big factors.
What matters is what role he plays on the team, how he fits into the Knicks’ overall needs and what his potential is for the future. Good leaders and managers don’t simply bank on stars, or their potential; they field the best teams with solid skills and strong dynamics and chemistry between players. If Lin’s teammate Carmelo Anthony is already calling the contract “ridiculous,” what would happen to their team dynamic if the Knicks management actually matched it?
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