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National Columnist

With knack for making dumb moves, Knicks really dumb to let Lin go

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A true phenomenon last season, Lin added to the bottom line for both the Knicks and the NBA. (Getty Images)  
A true phenomenon last season, Lin added to the bottom line for both the Knicks and the NBA. (Getty Images)  

This is not a Jason Kidd thing. It's not a Raymond Felton thing, either.

Is Kidd old, possibly over the hill, definitely facing charges of DUI? Yes. Is Raymond Felton a role player, nothing more, certainly not the starting point guard for an NBA team with playoff aspirations? Correct.

But that's not why the Knicks are screwing up by letting Jeremy Lin go.

They're screwing up because they're letting Jeremy Lin go.

See, this is a Jeremy Lin thing, a Linsanity thing, a marketing thing, a young point guard thing, an unknown ceiling thing.

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Jeremy Lin is the most remarkable, most marketable thing to happen to the NBA since LeBron James. Other than the rise, fall and rise again of LeBron, this league and the nation -- no, the world -- of NBA fans haven't been captivated by anything the way we were last season by Jeremy Lin.

Other than the various iterations of LeBron, nothing in the last decade moved the NBA meter like that. Well, nothing positive. The Tim Donaghy scandal moved it. The lockout moved it. But good news? No, nothing but LeBron has moved it like Jeremy Lin moved it.

And this is what the Knicks are giving up?

This?

The Knicks are stupid, but we knew that. Whoever's calling the shots for the Knicks is a buffoon, and I really hope it's owner James Dolan, because I'm comfortable calling him a buffoon. Dolan has an inexplicable infatuation with Isiah Thomas, which tells me all I need to know. Dolan is a total buffoon, the organic definition of Einstein's theory on insanity, a guy who does the same crap over and over and expects different results.

Letting Jeremy Lin go?

Same crap.

The Knicks had to keep Lin on every level I can think of, but since I know what level lots of you are thinking about, I'll address that one immediately: The Knicks had to keep Lin for business reasons.

That's not what the salary-cap argument is saying, but the salary-cap argument is intellectually lazy. According to that theory, the Knicks had to let Lin go lest they enter dangerous territory in three years when his salary increases -- from $5 million in 2012-13 and $5.2 million in '13-14 to $14.98 million in '14-15. That's a lot of money, but the sum total of $14.98 million isn't the problem, or so this theory goes.

When Houston's back-loaded offer to Lin was first reported a few days ago, it was said that should they match it, Lin's third-year salary would push the Knicks well over the salary cap, creating a luxury-tax hit that would ultimately put Lin's 2014-15 cost to the Knicks at $25 million. Now, a few days later, Lin's cost to the Knicks in 2014-15 was said to be closer to $60 million. Imagine if this saga had dragged on another week -- Lin might have become the first $100 million player ... in theory.

That's all this salary-cap screaming is, you know: a theory. In theory, sure, Lin's salary in 2014-15 could put the team way above the salary cap. But you know what else could put the team way over the salary cap in 2014-15? Carmelo Anthony's $24.4 million. Or Amar'e Stoudemire's $23.4 million. Or Tyson Chandler's $14.6 million.

My point is, the Knicks could have -- and surely would have -- unloaded somebody's salary before then. It's three years away, for crying out loud. Keep Jeremy Lin now and deal with the problem later, because in the NBA there's always someone wanting to take on an expiring contract. Those things are an albatross to some franchises, but gold to others. The Knicks could have found someone to take Anthony or Stoudemire or whoever else, anyone else, but Jeremy Lin.

Three years from now, by the way, Anthony will be 31. Stoudemire and Chandler will be 32.

Jeremy Lin will be 26.

And the Knicks chose all those guys -- a core that has demonstrated it can't win -- over a young point guard who went 16-10 in his magical 26-game run last season? So stupid, I can't make sense of it.

Especially since Jeremy Lin has already generated enough money to have offset whatever the Knicks would have lost -- in theory -- in 2014-15.

The Knicks sold tens of millions more in tickets and merchandise in the fiscal quarter after Linsanity began last season, and MSG stock rose several percentage points. Is it fair to say that was entirely due to Lin? Yes, actually. What's more, the demand for Lin in New York was such that Dolan was able to end his team's impasse with Time-Warner -- meaning many millions more in cable fees for the Knicks.

That was the impact Jeremy Lin made in a matter of weeks, and it started up all over again -- but in the opposite direction -- after Lin signed the offer sheet with the Rockets. MSG stock dropped 2.2 percent, mainly on the fear Lin would leave. You're telling me the Knicks can't afford to pay him in 2014-15? I'm telling you they can't afford to lose him right now.

Lin isn't just a marketing boon, either.

He doesn't have a ton of experience, no, but he has enough to suggest being worth a grand total of $25.1 million over three years. Last season he came out of nowhere and put up monstrous numbers, and then the league caught on, and the monstrous numbers went away. But solid numbers, winning numbers, continued. After setting an NBA record with 136 points in his first five starts, Lin averaged 16 points, 7.4 assists and 2.1 steals in his final 20 starts -- and while those figures don't make him a candidate for MVP, they do make him a very good NBA point guard.

And that was his first season, his first quarter-season, as a regular in the NBA. Most young players get, you know, better. How much better will Lin get? The Rockets will find out. They get the benefit of his ceiling. The Knicks? They'll stay in the basement.

But there's the off-the-court stuff, the Linsanity stuff, marketing stuff that the Knicks need -- and are in position to capitalize on, given their demographics -- more than anyone else in the league. The New York City market has slept on the Knicks for years, tuned out this unlikable collection of losers starting with Dolan but including whining Larry Brown, incompetent Isiah Thomas and selfish Carmelo Anthony.

People don't like the Knicks.

People love Jeremy Lin.

And he was allowed to leave for Houston? That's the Knickiest, most Dolan thing ever.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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