The New York Knicks are not planning to match Houston's offer for Lin, a restricted free-agent, The New York Times reported Tuesday, citing an unidentified person briefed on the situation.
The Times said deliberations were over for the Knicks as of Tuesday afternoon, and they had elected - as was widely expected - not to equal the Rockets' three-year, $25 million offer sheet, signed by Lin last Friday. New York officially had until 11:59 EDT to decide whether to re-sign Lin, and The Times cautioned there is an "incredibly small" chance the decision could be reversed. Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan had the final say.
Officials from both teams and Lin's agent would not confirm that any decision was final. The Rockets had not been informed of a decision on Lin, whom they released last year.
It was a move Houston came to regret after Lin electrified Knicks fans - indeed, basketball fans everywhere. The NBA's first American-born player of Taiwanese or Chinese descent, Lin catapulted to stardom last February when he joined a struggling Knicks' lineup and sparked a quick turnaround, averaging 21 points and 8.4 assists along the way.
The Harvard graduate went from sleeping on teammate's couch to becoming the flavor of the month, inspiring catchphrases ("Linsanity") and T-shirt slogans ("All He Does is Lin"), not mention selling out MSG as Taiwan's Tourism Bureau suddenly began advertising on Knicks' radio broadcasts.
On Tuesday, Houston Texans linebacker Connor Barwin seemed ready for the show to move south. "Welcome to Htown (at)JLin7!" he tweeted. "I've got an open couch and a hoop in my living room w/ your name on it."
Lin initially agreed to a four-year offer sheet worth about $28 million with Houston. The Rockets threw a curveball at the Knicks by revising the offer and making it three years and including a guaranteed salary of about $15 million in the third year. If the Knicks agreed to that deal, they'd have to pay a hefty luxury tax in 2014-15 - between $30-40 million
One sports consultant said the adjustment to the offer sheet was a stroke of genius by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.
"The Rockets deserve a lot of credit for the way they've gone about this," said Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based SportsCorp. "It was extremely intelligent - with an assassin's touch."
Ganis thought the Knicks should swallow the "poison pill" anyway, because of the immeasurable value that Lin added to the franchise internationally. While the Knicks would not directly recoup the luxury-tax hit, Lin would drive higher television ratings and continue to raise the team's profile in Asia, a prosperous market for the NBA since Yao Ming played for the Rockets.
"The Knicks, as important and as relevant as the Knicks' brand is in New York, it became internationally known by adding Jeremy Lin to it," Ganis said. "I can't speak to whether it's a good basketball decision. But from a marketing standpoint, I'd say (letting Lin go is) a very poor decision."
David Schwab, who specializes in matching brands with celebrities as managing director at Octagon First Call, said re-signing Lin was undeniably a gamble. He started only 25 games last season before he was sidelined with torn cartilage in his left knee.
"There's a risk he gets hurt, there's a risk he's not a star, there's a risk that he's not at the same level where he was when he played," Schwab said.
Lin's life has been a whirlwind since last December, when he spent less than two weeks in Rockets' training camp. The Rockets liked what they saw in the undrafted point guard, but had to waive him because they had Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic on the roster.
The Knicks picked him up and Lin was once again relegated to the bench, behind Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby. Lin was briefly demoted to the developmental league, recalled and finally got his chance when coach Mike D'Antoni put him in with the Knicks floundering at 8-15. Lin scored a career-high 25 points in a 99-92 win over New Jersey Nets and "Linsanity" was born.
Lin had slept on teammate Landry Fields' couch the night before, still refusing to get his own place as he headed into that week, knowing the Knicks would have to decide whether to cut him or guarantee his contract for the rest of the season.
But Lin proved more than just an overnight sensation - he had 28 and 23 points in his first two NBA starts, then scored a career-high 38 in a 92-85 victory over Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The stock price for Madison Square Garden Inc. surged on the production and popularity of the team's international star. Lin also made the Sports Illustrated cover in consecutive weeks, only the 12th athlete to hold that distinction since 1990. On Tuesday, Lin had more than 829,000 followers on Twitter.
The more opponents saw Lin, though, the more they seemed to figure him out as the season wore on. He went 1-for-11 with eight turnovers in a humbling, nationally televised loss in Miami and the Knicks dropped their first six games in March.
D'Antoni resigned in mid-March and Lin hurt his left knee less than two weeks later. The Knicks revealed on April 1 that Lin needed surgery to repair a meniscus tear and would miss six weeks.
The Knicks made the playoffs behind surging Carmelo Anthony, but bowed out to Miami in the first round. The Rockets, meanwhile, missed the postseason for the third straight year and have spent the offseason completely rebuilding their roster.
Houston has been trying to put together a package of assets and draft picks to offer Orlando in exchange for disgruntled All-Star center Dwight Howard. In the process, the Rockets lost the unrestricted free agent Dragic to Phoenix, then traded Lowry to Toronto in exchange for a future first-round pick with lottery protection.
With no true point guard left on the roster, the Rockets turned back to Lin. The Knicks may have shown their hand when they brought back Raymond Felton in a sign-and-trade deal with Portland.
Houston, meanwhile, jumped at the chance to reacquire their popularity in China, where Yao Ming became a larger-than-life figure. Many Rockets landed lucrative shoe contracts with Chinese companies on Yao's coattails and Rockets' games drew massive television ratings there.
While Lin is an American success story, Schwab thinks he would reopen in-roads the team established during Yao's eight seasons (2002-11).
"Teams base their decisions on wins and losses, because wins and losses ultimately affect ticket sales, sponsorships," Schwab said. "I still think it's a win-loss decision, but I think, in their case, it's weighed more as a marketing decision. They've got more to gain right now, with a decade of Yao and companies they've done business with. They've got kind of the next frontier there."