Prior to Houston’s 109-96 victory over the Knicks on Monday night at Madison Square Garden, New York head coach Mike Woodson candidly expressed his opinion that Jeremy Lin abandoned Gotham to play point guard for the Rockets.
The 24-year-old Lin, who suffered a torn left meniscus in late-March that required season-ending surgery, averaged 14.6 points and 6.2 assists in 35-games as a member of the Knicks (18-6) in 2012.
Quite shockingly, the Asian-American phenomenon vacated New York and inked a four-year deal worth approximately $28 million with the Rockets (12-12) as a restricted free agent in the summertime.
To soften the departure of Lin, the Knicks agreed to a sign-and-trade with the Portland Trail Blazers that allowed them to reacquire Raymond Felton and power forward Kurt Thomas for free agent Jared Jeffries and Dan Gadzuric’s non-guaranteed $1.4 million contract.
The 28-year-old Felton, who has averaged 13.5 points, 6.7 assists and 3.3 rebounds in seven professional seasons since the Charlotte Bobcats selected him with the fifth pick in the 2005 draft out of The University of North Carolina, is a capable point guard who has already proven he can succeed in “The Big Apple.”
Paired with the 39-year-old Jason Kidd, who is the only man in league history to amass at least 15,000 points, 7,000 rebounds, and 10,000 assists in his career, Felton and the five-time All-NBA First Team selection make a formidable duo in the backcourt.
“We wanted Jeremy back,” said Woodson, 54, who has compiled a glittering mark of 36-12 since replacing the terminated Mike D’Antoni last February. “I made that public back in the summer. But things changed from a business standpoint. Jeremy decided to take the Houston (new) deal. He had every right to do that. As an organization, we moved on. We were able to field guys like Kidd, Pablo and Raymond. We’re excited about those three guys and they’ve put us in this position with our 18-6 record. No knock against Jeremy. He did what he had to do in making his decision and we did what we had to do.”
Lin, an undrafted graduate of Harvard University who was a two-time All-Ivy League First Team selection in 2009 and 2010, became the only ballplayer in league history to score at least 20 points and dish a minimum of seven assists in his first five starts last winter.
The first American born NBA player of Taiwanese or Chinese descent is an exciting playmaker who is overflowing with potential on the hardwood.
Nevertheless, although “no knock against Jeremy,” its evident the Knicks will be a lasting, and powerful, force in the Eastern Conference throughout the 2012-2013 season without Lin.
As Mike Woodson aptly noted, Jeremy Lin “did what he had to do in making his decision” and the New York Knicks “did what (they) had to do.”by