On the Friday night in February when the Knicks beat the Lakers behind 38 points from Jeremy Lin, Linsanity was a synonym for a happiness so thrillingly unexpected that you couldn't help losing your faculties while letting it roll over you.
On the Saturday night in July when word broke that the Knicks were trading for Raymond Felton and sources popped up like sprinklers on a lawn to say that they would not match Houston's offer for Jeremy Lin, Linsanity started to mean something different.
By the end of Sunday, Linsanity had gone from a joyful feeling to being something much darker that brought out the worst in everyone in sight.
Lin's decision to sign a three-year, $25.1 million deal with the Rockets, including a salary of just under $15 million in the third year, appears to have paved his way out of New York with a payoff of almost $1 million for each of the 26 games he has played in his career.
Because of luxury tax implications, paying Lin would mean the Knicks would have to surrender more than twice that much in year three and that's a heavy burden to bear for a player whose career could go in ten different directions.
In most circumstances, a team would be applauded for avoiding that kind of fiscal irresponsibility. But most circumstances don't have James Dolan sitting at the top of the hierarchy. Dolan will get no applause in this town for suddenly discovering prudence after years of Shandon Anderson, Jerome James, Eddy Curry, Stephon Marbury and Stevie Francis, something you can glean from the loud calls for the Knicks to match the offer.
The secretive Dolan has the organization on lockdown so we don't have any actual idea about what the team will be doing. The signs, however, are all pointing to Lin playing for the Rockets next season. That's led to all manner of theories about why things are going this way.
There's the Carmelo Anthony puppet-master angle, which got some fuel when Melo less than diplomatically said that the Knicks have to decide whether to sign the "ridiculous" offer to Lin. J.R. Smith more pointedly said that the contract might not sit well with other players in the locker room, but that doesn't fit into the notion that Anthony is pulling the strings to get Lin out of town to protect his own celebrity.
Anthony has become an easy target, but it is a ridiculous contract for the Knicks based on what they've seen from Lin and one that asks them to pay established starter money in a punitive method for a guy who isn't an established starter. Anthony might want the spotlight to himself, but a team that didn't have the Knicks' recent history wouldn't be ridiculed for helping Lin pack his bags.
If you don't like that one, what about the "Lin is disloyal" angle for signing an offer sheet that made it hard for the Knicks to match the contract? Lin makes the same money either way and the third-year issue is a salary cap one that enables him to get that contract, which might be his one and only shot at a contract like this because, once again, we don't really know what kind of basketball player he'll turn out to be.
This one leads us back to Dolan, who is said to prize loyalty over competence (see Isiah Thomas.) You could pretty much accuse Dolan of anything and Knicks fans would believe it, but, loyal or not, it's entirely reasonable to refuse to pay more than $30 million for one year of Lin's service.
Lin's supporters would point to the revenue streams that he creates off the court, which just shows you how far through the looking glass we are now. Lin's basketball bona fides are such a mystery that you can't even use them as the crux of an argument for keeping him, but the Knicks will wind up the bad guys for not prizing jersey sales in Taiwan over their basketball team.
If they're even doing that. Like we said, there isn't much about this that is easily understood, outside of the fact that the contracts given to Lin, Landry Fields, Brook Lopez and others suggest that the NBA is going to have another lockout in the next few years to protect owners from themselves.
And then there's the ever-hopeful Knicks fan belief that all of this sets the team up to make a bid for Chris Paul. It's also immensely frustrating as you realize it means trying to win games next year with a backcourt of Felton, Smith and Jason Kidd doing the heavy lifting.
It''s enough to drive you to drink and slam your car into a telephone pole. Kidd, of course, was arrested for DWI early Sunday morning, calling into question the whole mentor role we thought he was playing, as well as fueling the idea that he only came to New York to party in his twilight years.
You'll notice we haven't done much talking about basketball, which makes sense because none of this has anything to do with basketball. Lin looks like a better fit for what promises to be an isolation-heavy offense, especially with Felton coming off a horrid season, but we're so far past rational analysis on either side that it seems ludicrous to even mention it.
Once we know what the Knicks are actually doing with the offer sheet, we can talk about basketball. They have until the end of Tuesday to make their call and you shouldn't expect anything official until then, which means 48 hours for this thing to continue to grow and grow at a rate rivaling the original birth of Linsanity.
It was more fun the first time around, but, then, we're still of the belief that basketball is the fun part of basketball.
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