Jeremy Lin may have wanted to stay in New York for the rest of his career, but that wish ultimately means nothing in the context of his summer free agency saga.
Though the story of the Knicks declining to match Lin's offer sheet has been told and retold an uncountable number of times, GQ is now adding another wrinkle to the tale. According to Jared Zwerling of ESPNNewYork.com, Lin is quoted in a November GQ article as saying that he wanted to finish his career in New York.
"You can't ask for a city or a fan base to embrace somebody more than they embraced me," he said in the magazine's November issue, as the cover subject. "I know it's kind of silly to talk about it with only two years under my belt in the league, but going in before free agency, I was like, 'I want to play in front of these fans for the rest of my career.' I really did.
"I really wanted to play in front of the Madison Square Garden fans for the rest of my career, because they're just unbelievable."
This revelation will be considered newsworthy, as anything said about the Lin signing by any involved party has made the news. Think about it: ESPN reported on a single quote from an article that hadn't even come out yet. Absurd as it is, that sort of coverage has been par for the course when it comes to Lin.
Here's how Knicks fans ought to absorb this latest bit of information. First, take a moment to appreciate what Lin is saying. Players don't always talk about their fans with such graciousness. Especially for a former player whose departure was marred with shock and hysteria, this praise is both surprising and sincere.
The summer drama did not take away Lin's great memories of last season, and Knicks fans should also look back fondly on his time in New York. Fleetingly brief as it was, New York will always have Linsanity, even if Lin is elsewhere. This most recent quote confirms that sentiment.
On the other hand, after Knicks fans take the compliment, they should put this quote out of their minds entirely. Nice as it is what Lin is saying, nothing constructive can come from a statement like this months after he left for Houston.
At this point, it does not matter that Lin's desire was to stay with the Knicks. No matter how much he likes the Garden and the New York fans, he's gone—and it will be years before he could rejoin the Knicks if he even wanted to.
To that end, also consider that he might not feel the same way about New York down the line. He's 24 years old, and he has played just half a season's worth of meaningful NBA games. Before he revitalized the Knicks' fanbase and became the spiritual successor to Yao Ming, Jeremy Lin was just a kid out of college who didn't know if he'd make it in the league.
Of course Lin is so indebted to New York and its fans; their support alone granted him professional stability that he had only dreamed of before. However, Lin's happiness was not the Knicks' main priority this offseason. First and foremost, the Knicks were trying to build a better basketball team, and they didn't feel that Lin was a worthwhile investment for the price Houston was offering.
This is where the folks who still haven't gotten over Lin leaving will bring up two things: The Knicks were the ones that told Lin to go out and get an offer sheet, and according to Tim Keown of ESPN the Magazine, Carmelo Anthony was orchestrating for Lin's removal behind the scenes.
Let's take these issues on one at a time.
If Lin really did want to finish his career in New York, he did not have to sign an offer sheet. If he had told management that he didn't want to explore the market and that he was committed to returning to the Knicks, what would they have said, no?
"The Rockets thought I was going to be a Knick," Lin said to GQ. "They told me when I signed, 'We think it's an 80 to 95 percent chance of that happening.'"
Lin's a smart guy; he must have known that 20 percent represented a very real chance that the Knicks wouldn't match the offer. He could have negotiated directly with the Knicks; it likely would have yielded a cheaper, longer deal, along with the lure of copious endorsement deals. The Knicks did not make Lin sign with Houston; it was ultimately his decision to seek out a competing bidder.
Now assume that all of Keown's team sources on Melo's subterfuge are accurate. If Lin still ended up staying, Melo's latent animosity towards him would have come to a head sooner or later. Forced to choose between their perennial All-Star and a small sample phenomenon, it's clear that Lin had to go for the sake of the team.
The Knicks have experienced as much drama in the last decade as anyone. If a choice between Melo and Lin was considered a choice between the Knicks' success and Lin's desires, then the answer is clear. His wish to stay in New York was not relevant in July, and it matters even less now.