Jeremy Lin heads to Houston as Knicks don't match $25.1M offer

Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks looks Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks looks on during a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. (February 23, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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There will be no more Lin-sanity in New York.

Jeremy Lin is a Houston Rocket, after the Knicks opted not to match his three-year, $25.1-million offer sheet. The contract will pay Lin $5 million and $5.2 million the first two years and about $14.89 million in the third year.

The Knicks announced their decision about 90 minutes before the midnight deadline. There was no other statement from the Knicks.

Despite his extreme popularity with fans and the revenue he generates with his off-the-court appeal, it was doubtful Lin, 23, would be back following the events of the previous four days.

After Houston changed the original contract terms and increased the third-year escalator, the Knicks acquired point guard Raymond Felton in a sign-and-trade from Portland, effectively ending Lin's one-season stay in New York.

"Much love and thankfulness to the Knicks and New York for your support this past year," Lin said on his Twitter page Tuesday night. "Easily the best year of my life."

"Extremely excited and honored to be a Houston Rocket again."

Lin, undrafted out of Harvard, enjoyed an improbable and magical run with the Knicks that led to him becoming an international phenomenon and Garden favorite.

He graced the cover of Sports Illustrated twice and was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World. In 25 starts for the Knicks, Lin averaged 18.2 points and 7.7 assists.

The Knicks could be taking a gamble with Felton, who was criticized for being out of shape last season, 39-year-old Jason Kidd and Argentine Pablo Prigioni, 35, handling the point guard duties. But they have more experience leading a team than Lin, and won't cost nearly as much.

It was considered a given Lin would return to the Knicks after he and Houston originally agreed to a guaranteed three-year, $19.5-million deal that paid him $9.3 million in the final season.

Last week, Knicks coach Mike Woodson said he "absolutely" expected Lin back. When he was asked if the Knicks blinked at Houston's offer, Woodson said, "never once," and went on to say Lin would be his starting point guard going into training camp. That was before the Rockets changed the offer.

The nearly $15 million Lin is due in the third year of his contract and the additional $28 million that the Knicks might pay in luxury-tax penalties were possibly deterrents to matching Houston's offer.

Carmelo Anthony called the contract "ridiculous," but said he wanted Lin back. J.R. Smith, however, told SI.com that if Lin, who has played 64 games in his career, returned his contract could have led to jealousy and chemistry issues in the locker room.

Lin was cut by Golden State and Houston last season, and was nearly waived by the Knicks. But former coach Mike D'Antoni put him in against the Nets on Feb. 4 out of desperation and Lin-sanity was born.

He saved the Knicks and their season, scoring 25 points off the bench to start a seven-game winning streak.

He ultimately played his last game for the Knicks in their win over Detroit on March 24. He suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee that he decided to have surgery on and missed the rest of the regular season.

Lin appeared close to returning during the Knicks' first-round playoff series against Miami. But he declared himself "85 percent" healthy and didn't feel comfortable playing on the knee so he remained a spectator. The Knicks lost to the eventual champs in five.

Felton, Kidd and Prigioni will run the offense favored by Woodson, who is a proponent of playing veterans.

"I haven't seen a young team win an NBA title in the last 10, 15 years," he said last week. "It's veteran guys who win the NBA title."

The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Knicks, Madison Square Garden and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.

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