An item’s value and its worth aren’t necessarily the same thing. A person’s wedding ring might be valued at X amount of dollars, but it can be worth many times that amount to the owner. Intrinsics and intangibles often are beyond the grasp of a price tag.
The same is true in sports. Derek Jeter’s worth to the Yankees certainly exceeded his value a couple of seasons ago when the team signed him to a three-year, $51 million contract with a player option for 2014, when he’ll be 40. What he means to the Bronx Bombers can’t be measured in dollars and cents alone.
The overwhelming majority of player signings are fueled by performance on the field/court, not results at the box office/retail outlet. But certain stars force management to tinker with the equation, or at least reconsider it, based on their broad appeal and financial impact.
Tim Tebow earned that type of consideration before the Denver Broncos opted to pursue Peyton Manning. Although his style of play doesn’t inspire much success, management could have ridden his tidal wave of popularity while giving him time. Arguably, only a bona fide star like Manning could have displaced Tebow in Denver.
Though the sample size was minuscule, Lin produced at unprecedented levels, scoring more points through his first six starts than any other player in NBA history.
Ticket sales soared, merchandise flew off the racks and booming TV ratings resolved a battle between Time Warner and MSG Network. “Linsanity” swept through the NBA and around the country, in part due to the player’s unique background as an Asian-American who went undrafted out of Harvard.
When the Knicks take all of those factors into consideration — including his 14.6 points and 6.2 assists per game last season — they should keep Lin. Even though the Houston Rockets offered Lin more than he might be worth, he’s more valuable to the Knicks.
Lin has more upside than either Jason Kidd or Raymond Felton, the two point guards New York acquired this offseason. Lin will be a good player, if nothing else, with a chance to be very good or great. You don’t drop 38 on Kobe and the Lakers, or go for 28 points and 14 assists against the Mavericks unless you’ve got game.
The Rockets’ offer sheet includes a poison pill of sorts — a balloon payment reported to be $14.8 million for the third and final year. The Knicks would be on the hook for $75 million among four players that season (Lin, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler) if they match, forcing them to pay anywhere from $35 million to $45 million in luxury tax.
There was no doubt that New York intended to keep Lin before it learned the particulars of Houston’s offer. The subsequent trade for Felton, and the Knicks‘ silence since the revelation, leads most observers to conclude that Linsanity is done on Broadway.
If so, that would be penny-wise and pound-foolish.
The No. 1 team in the No. 1 media market shouldn’t let its biggest star (no offense to Anthony) walk out the door while it gets nothing in return. Lin, 23, might never live up to the salary.
But the Knicks definitely won’t inspire as much hope, draw as much attention or generate as much interest without him.