Lin's gone and lost forever -- unless Dolan signs him to a $15 million contract when he's in his late 30's.
The tabloids can fire all their pun writers because Linsanity is over.
Jeremy Lin is a Rocket and we're left to pick up the pieces of another shattered Knicks dream. It's hard to think of too many sports moments that matched Lin's arrival on the scene when it comes to sheer improbable giddiness. It is even harder to think of a way to rationalize willingly handing it all away.
Sports are about winning, obviously, but professional sports are also about business and entertainment. Lin was good for the last two things and there was enough reason to hope he'd help with the first to roll the dice on spending the admittedly absurd salary he would command in 2014-2015.
For the Knicks to turn their back on Lin after years of throwing bad money after awful and to do it in such a smug way makes you question why you even bothered caring in the first place, although the same could be said of every night the Mets bullpen finds a new way to turn victory into defeat.
Having said that, the rising tone of outrage feels quite unrealistic for anyone who didn't start following the Knicks when Lin hit the scene. It's like the people who scream at the top of their lungs about the latest scandal in college sports while blissfully ignoring the fact that college sports have always been as corrupt as New Jersey politics.
Being upset about the way things went down is perfectly fine, but acting like this wasn't par for the course is simply willful blindness. From the moment he traded Patrick Ewing, James Dolan has made it exceedingly clear that he operates to the beat of a drummer heard only by him and that said drummer's beat will always lead him to make hash of promising situations.
Oh, we were just as fooled as anyone else in this case. When the ruling came that the Knicks could keep Lin via his Early Bird rights, we jumped right past the thoughts of ways to screw this up and concentrated on Lin's return along with an eerily prescient mention of Raymond Felton's potential return to the Garden.
But being fooled by Dolan in 2012 isn't something that should lead anyone to say "Shame on you." Shame's on us. If you allow yourself to be fooled for the 374th time by the same guy pulling the same petty moves that confirm he cares only about being the man in charge of a fiefdom and not about the ultimate success of the fiefdom, then the other guy isn't the problem.
That Dolan would do this because he was cheesed off about Lin following the same rules as everyone else -- the Knicks encouraged him to solicit other offers in the first place knowing full well about poison pill third years -- and then try to blame the size of the contract was, in hindsight, the most predictable outcome for this whole situation. It's Dolan's Razor: When you have competing courses of action, always choose the one that makes the least sense to anyone who isn't James Dolan.
The scary thing about this is that you have to imagine plenty of people in the Knicks organization allowed themselves to get fooled by Dolan on this one as well. All of the luxury tax talk about Lin's contract ignores the fact that signing Marcus Camby, Jason Kidd and Felton for $21 million over the next two seasons -- more than Lin will make and they'll combine to get halfway to the reviled third year of his deal to boot-- put them over the tax apron even without throwing Lin's contract onto the bonfire.
You don't go into the penalty for an old backup center, an old backup point guard who needs someone to tell him what a taxi is and an overweight guard coming off a bad season unless you are also willing to do it for a 23-year-old point guard with ancillary benefits to go with the potential he showed last season. Every move the Knicks made pointed to one direction before Dolan grabbed the wheel.
How much this will actually impact the Knicks on the court this season is a question worth debate given how awkward a fit Lin appeared to be with the offense Mike Woodson plans to run on a team overloaded with awkward fits. What's not up for debate is how it will impact Carmelo Anthony.
The storyline of Melo forcing Lin out of town is going to have legs because Anthony remains a lightning rod for fans upset about the trade that brought him here and those who think that he's short of being a star player despite the evidence to the contrary. If he struggles early in the season, it is going to get really, really Isiah-level ugly at the Garden and the halcyon days when Lin was outdueling Kobe will seem as sepia-toned as anything featuring Walt Frazier.
Sadly, it won't be much of a surprise to see things turn out that way. Just don't pretend to be outraged when it does because it's just business as usual for the Knicks.