For Knicks, match Lin or risk regret if he goes

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Given his popularity in New York and all the opportunities it affords, it’s difficult to imagine he’d want to sabotage his own chances of returning. Yet maybe he doesn’t see the same potential for himself under Mike Woodson as he showed in Mike D’Antoni’s pick-and-roll offense. Or perhaps he’s one of the many who sees the futility of the Carmelo Anthony-Amare Stoudemire pairing and doesn’t want the burden of being the point guard charged with making it work.

And maybe the Knicks don’t believe he is, anyway. They made a veteran point guard a top priority in free agency, missing out on Steve Nash but signing Jason Kidd. Then they agreed to a sign-and-trade with Portland to bring back Raymond Felton to New York in deal that was completed Monday.

None brings the marketing potential of Lin, whose story of undrafted Harvard graduate to unexpected NBA star was a hit around the world. (How many other players went into free agency with “Time” magazine list of top 100 most influential people on their resume?)

That gives Houston plenty of reason to want him back. The NBA’s first American-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese decent would continue to grow the popularity the Rockets already enjoy in Asia thanks to their retired star, Yao Ming.

The Rockets had Lin on their roster during the preseason before waiving him, with two point guards ahead of him on the depth chart and an open roster spot needed to add a big man.

It wasn’t long before they wished they’d done differently, general manager Daryl Morey writing on Twitter during Lin’s dazzling stretch, when he averaged 24.6 points and 9.2 assists in 10 games from Feb. 4-20, that cutting Lin was a mistake.

Now it’s up to the Knicks. Keep Linsanity where it was born or risk the same regret.

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Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney

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