- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 17, 2012

HOUSTON (AP) - Time to make a decision, New York.

Keep Jeremy Lin, or let him go?

The Knicks have until 11:59 p.m. EDT Tuesday to match Houston’s three-year, $25 million offer sheet or release Lin, who became an international phenomenon during a dazzling February. A person with direct knowledge of the process says the Rockets delivered the offer sheet to the Knicks late Saturday. But the Knicks have never officially acknowledged receiving it, so not even the Rockets were certain if New York planned to honor the deadline.

Lin initially agreed to a four-year offer sheet worth about $28 million. 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 says the Knicks should swallow the “poison pill” anyway, because of the immeasurable value that Lin, the league’s first American-born player of Taiwanese or Chinese descent to play in the NBA, added to the franchise internationally. He says the Knicks would not directly recoup the luxury-tax hit, but 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 it’s a very poor decision.”

David Schwab, who specializes in matching brands with celebrities as managing director at Octagon First Call, says the Knicks would be gambling by re-signing Lin, who 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. “Do I think the opportunity is there and have they built good will and do they have the luxury of going to marketplace and figuring that out? Yes. But you also have to believe that for the past six months, that’s what they’ve been doing.”

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 Harvard graduate, 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.

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