With Lin gone, Knicks focus on current team
GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) -- Jeremy Lin was all the talk in New York during a sensational stretch last season.
Now, the Knicks don't want to talk about him at all.
At their annual media day, the Knicks tried to keep the focus on the aging team they assembled and believe is a contender, rather than on the phenom they let get away over the summer.
Team officials had never commented on the decision not to match the offer sheet Lin signed with the Houston Rockets in July, and it took only two questions Monday before general manager Glen Grunwald and coach Mike Woodson were asked for an explanation.
"Well, sure," Grunwald started, before Woodson, seated to his left at a podium, quickly interrupted.
"I'm not going to discuss Jeremy Lin," Woodson said. "I think as a franchise we wish Jeremy nothing but the best. It was a process that we went through, and we were able to get a player by the name of Raymond Felton, a guy by the name of Jason Kidd, Pablo (Prigioni) in here. Three solid point guards that I think will help our ballclub as we move down the road.
"As an organization and as a coach, I wish Jeremy nothing but the best. This day really is about, I think, the team that we fielded this summer, and we need to focus in on that."
That Lin wouldn't be a part of it would have been unfathomable in the spring.
Undrafted out of Harvard and waived three times before the Knicks signed him, Lin finally got his chance in February with the team faltering. He averaged 24.6 points and 9.2 assists in 10 games from Feb. 4-20, pulling the Knicks into the playoff race, drawing worldwide interest as the NBA's first American-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese decent, and boosting the Knicks' TV ratings and merchandise sales.
His numbers declined after Woodson replaced the more offensive-minded Mike D'Antoni in March, and his season ended after just 25 starts when he needed surgery to repair torn knee cartilage. Still, Woodson had insisted Lin would return and go into next season as the starting point guard, even after the restricted free agent had signed an offer sheet with the Rockets for four years and about $28 million.
The Rockets amended the offer to three years and about $25 million, with the final year salary ballooning to nearly $15 million. In the meantime, the Knicks had signed Kidd, re-acquired Felton from Portland, and decided to pass on Lin.
"Basically, it comes down to the fact that Houston made a commitment to him that we weren't prepared to make," Grunwald said. "I'm very happy for Jeremy that things worked out for him very well personally and for his family, and I wish him the best. But I'm more excited for our team, by the team we've assembled right now."
It's an old one, with Kurt Thomas about to turn 40, Kidd doing so late next season and Marcus Camby 38. At one point Monday, Camby, Kidd and Thomas came to the podium in succession, totaling about 120 years of age. Rasheed Wallace is expected to join the old guys in the next couple of days after ending two years of retirement to sign.
Felton is only 28 but appeared in decline last season, averaging a career-low 11.4 points and briefly losing his starting job. He acknowledged he arrived out of shape after the lockout, unsure there would even be a season. But both he and the Knicks insist he's in good condition now.
"I'm in shape now, ready to go and I got a big, big chip on my shoulder," Felton said.
Felton played well for the Knicks during the 2010-11 season, averaging 17.1 points in 54 starts before he was sent to Denver as part of the package for Carmelo Anthony. His return was met with a lukewarm response -- and even some anger -- from many Knicks fans, not only because he played so poorly last season but because it paved the way for Lin's departure.
"Jeremy had a good run. Jeremy did a lot of good things here, so the fact that they didn't want him to leave, I mean, that's expected," Felton said. "I'm not upset at that at all. I don't really care about that at all. He's in Houston now; I'm here in New York, back where I wanted to be. I did a lot of great things when I was here. I'm looking forward to bringing those things back."
There was speculation the Knicks were angry that Lin had gone back to the Rockets to get a second offer, which would have been so difficult for New York to afford because of the expensive luxury tax payments it would have been subjected to in the third year. But Grunwald said the decision was a simple matter of choosing the best fit.
"You go through free agency and you have a lot of irons in the fire, a lot of options available to you, and we felt that the Raymond Felton option was the best one at the end of the day," Grunwald said. "We were excited to have Raymond back.
"We weren't disappointed at all."