For every weird little occurrence in life, there seems to be an episode of Seinfeld to which you can circle back for an analogous situation. Even for something as innocuous as the Rockets' pursuit of Knicks restricted free agent guard Jeremy Lin.
So here goes:
Remember that episode of Seinfeld when George was dating a really good-looking girl the week before the New York Yankees' (George's employer at the time) annual gala? He somehow got wind that she was about to break up with him, so rather than face the music and take his breakup like a man, George just tried to avoid her for as long as he possibly could.
Worth noting: This is the episode where we all found out what George's answering machine recording sounded like...
Well, you can't run forever. Costanza learned this. And so did New York Knicks general manager Glen Grunwald this past weekend.
If you recall, during the NBA's moratorium period of July 1 through July 11, the Rockets verbally agreed to a three-year deal with Knicks restricted free agent guard/Asian superhero Jeremy Lin. At the time, the three-year deal was worth around $19 million, with a team option for a fourth year at another $10 million. Pretty sporty.
Somewhere along the way, when the time came this week for the Rockets to officially make an offer to Lin, they felt the need to bump the first three years up to around $24 million in salary (with a whopping "poison pill" third-year salary of $14.9 million). As is the rule with restricted free agents, once the original team is in receipt of the signed offer sheet, they have three days to either match the offer or let the player in question move to the team with whom he signed the offer sheet.
Now, understand that Jeremy Lin is not your average restricted free agent. When finally given an opportunity to play this past February, he burst on the scene to the extent that the whole experience of consuming him was given a nickname (Linsanity!) and the NBA made an ad hoc exception to put him in the Rookie-Sophomore game just because he was
a walking ATM that damn compelling.
Oh yeah, he's also Asian, which means that he's one of a small handful of players who are potentially worth their salary a hundredfold in jerseys, shoes and ancillary marketing. It's for all of these reasons that Knicks head coach Mike Woodson stated emphatically that the Knicks would match any offer for Lin up to "a billion dollars," and also went so far as to declare Lin the Knicks' starter going into the season.
Well, that was before the Knicks' franchise became possessed by the soul of Isiah Thomas over the last week. In between Woodson's bold statement and this weekend, the Knicks gave multimillion-dollar deals to Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Steve Novak -- yes, $15 million for STEVE NOVAK -- to go with their already bloated salaries for Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony (over $20 million apiece annually) and numerous others in the tri-state area.
So now, all of a sudden, with luxury tax, the Lin deal was going to cost the Knicks north of $30 million in year three. This made the decision on what to do with Lin far more difficult.
So perhaps to buy some more time or just generally fuck with the team that fucked with their backcourt, the Knicks and their GM Grunwald decided to go on the lam. The time came for the Rockets to deliver Lin's signed offer sheet and the Knicks were nowhere to be found. And I mean they used like every goddamned junior high trick in the book -- not answering the phone, screening by the receptionist at the team hotel, blocking the Rockets on Twitter and Facebook. Hell, the only thing missing was a story of Grunwald and owner James Dolan sporting Bobby Valentine-style glasses and mustache disguise while sitting in the crowd at summer league games.
Jonathan Feigen had the full story on the Chronicle Web site (and a hilarious play-by-play on his Twitter feed @Jonathan_Feigen):
The Rockets have tried to deliver the offer sheet to the Knicks since Friday afternoon, but they had eluded their efforts, holding up the start of the three-day clock to match the offer or let Lin go to the Rockets, according to a person familiar with the process.
The Rockets had called and asked where they could deliver the offer sheet but were told that information would not be shared. By Friday evening, a courier called the hotel room of a Knicks official but did not get an answer. Roughly 30 minutes later, a front desk clerk reached him but was told the Knicks were not taking deliveries and that he would not come to the front desk to pick up a package.
The Rockets sent representatives to the Knicks practice on Friday and to the game on Saturday but could not find Knicks general manager Glen Grunwald.
The offer sheet was FedExed to the Knicks' New York office and will have the receipt forwarded to the league office, but league officials said that until it can be shown that the Knicks have the offer sheet in hand, the clock on the Knicks' three-day period to match would not begin.
The gamesmanship, though unusual, will not last. Having the offer sheet in the Knicks New York office will eventually suffice. It is expected that in time it would be delivered in Las Vegas. But for more than 24 hours, the Rockets have been unable to connect on what is normally an easy pass.
So eventually the Rockets were able to deliver the paperwork to the extent that the clock started running on the Knicks' time frame to decide what to do with Lin. By all accounts, it appears that come Wednesday morning, Lin will be a Houston Rocket signed to a "ridiculous contract" (Carmelo Anthony's words, not mine).
You can only avoid bad news for so long. What comes around goes around. The Seinfeld episode I outlined at the top wound up with George having to take Kramer to the Yankee gala as his date. This episode of the soap opera that is the Knicks likely winds up with the Knicks losing Lin anyway, forcing them to go with a combination of the rotund Raymond Felton and the ancient Jason Kidd (who picked up a DWI this weekend -- good job, good effort, Jason) at point guard.
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So one more time -- are we 110 percent sure that Isiah Thomas isn't still running things in New York?
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.