Thu, Jul 19, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Knicks fans see red as ‘Linsanity’ heads to Houston

AFP, NEW YORK

Jeremy Lin, center, playing for the New York Knicks drives to the basket past the Toronto Raptors’ James Johnson, left, in their NBA game in Toronto on March 23.

Photo: Reuters

For Jeremy Lin (林書豪) the sparkling Broadway run is over, but the point guard who took New York by storm says he is excited to launch the next phase of his NBA career with the Houston Rockets.

“Extremely excited and honored to be a Houston Rocket again,” Lin said on Twitter shortly after the New York Knicks confirmed late on Tuesday that they would not match Houston’s three-year, US$25 million offer for the 23-year-old player.

The Knicks announced their decision less than two hours before the midnight deadline.

The Rockets were one of two teams to cut then-unknown Lin last season.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said that would not happen again as he welcomed Lin to Houston via Twitter.

“Welcome to Houston @Jlin7,” Morey tweeted. “We plan to hang on this time.”

Even the Knicks were preparing to waive Lin when injuries to two players gave him a chance to come off New York’s bench earlier this year.

Lin responded by sparking a seven-game Knicks winning streak, thrilling New York fans with his clutch shooting and passing skills.

Lin, whose parents are from Taiwan, quickly became a global sensation.

He became the first player in NBA history to score at least 20 points and pass for seven assists in his first five starts.

He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated twice and was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People as even casual basketball fans found themselves charmed by a Cinderella story that included a spell sleeping on Knicks teammate Landry Fields’ couch.

Lin’s fate had been the subject of intense speculation since he became a restricted free agent this month. He inked the offer sheet from Houston, but the Knicks had the option of matching it to keep him.

The Knicks were widely expected to match a reported three-year, US$19.5 million offer from the Rockets, but Lin eventually signed a higher offer sheet, which included a US$14.9 million scheduled payment for the third year.

That would cost the Knicks millions in luxury-tax penalties levied on excessive salaries.

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony called the offer “ridiculous,” but still said on Monday he hoped that Lin would return.

However, teammate J.R. Smith told Sports Illustrated that if Lin — who has played only 64 games in his NBA career — came back on those terms it could have led to tension in the Knicks locker room.

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander made it clear he thinks Lin is worth it.

“We are thrilled to have Jeremy back as part of the Rockets family,” Alexander said. “In his limited opportunity last season, Jeremy showed that he has all the skills to be a great player in this league for many years to come. In addition to being a great passer, he is also exceptional at driving to the rim and finishing plays. He also showed a poise well beyond his years by making winning plays at the end of numerous games last season. Jeremy is a winner on and off the court, and we view him as an important part of our plan to build a championship contender.”

Even before the move was official, dismayed Knicks fans were voicing their disappointment.

“We’re losing more than one player. He was a symbol of the city,” Jason Gutierrez, a 29-year-old musician, said outside the NBA Store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

The Knicks’ Facebook page was littered with criticism.

“Bye, bye Knicks ... am not Knicks fan anymore,” Fan Jen-jung wrote.

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