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Jeremy Lin: 'I preferred New York'

Jeremy Lin laughs during warmups. (Feb. 24, 2012)

Jeremy Lin laughs during warmups. (Feb. 24, 2012) Credit: AP

Like just about everyone else in New York and around the NBA, Jeremy Lin believed he would remain a Knick.

But Lin became a Rocket on Tuesday night after the Knicks decided not to match Houston's three-year, $25.1-million offer sheet.

"Honestly, I preferred New York," Lin told Sports Illustrated Wednesday. "But my main goal in free agency was to go to a team that had plans for me and wanted me. I wanted to have fun playing basketball . . . Now I'm definitely relieved."

The same can't be said for many in the Knicks' passionate fan base.

They are waiting for the Knicks' explanation for letting Lin walk when all along it was expected they would match all offers for the player who saved the Knicks' season. That apparently changed after Houston revised the original agreement and bumped the third year from $9.3 million to $14.89 million.

But the Knicks haven't commented on their decision or the acquisition of point guard Raymond Felton, which was when Lin started to figure his days in New York were numbered.

"Felton's signing was the first time when I thought, 'Oh, wow, I might not be a Knick,' " said Lin, who issued a statement through the Rockets praising the Knicks.

Lin will be introduced in Houston at a news conference Thursday.

Some will argue that if Lin truly wanted to remain a Knick, he wouldn't have agreed to new terms.

Knicks coach Mike Woodson already said publicly the Knicks would match Houston's offer of three years guaranteed for $19.3 million. But you can't blame Lin for getting the most money he could.

Before the start of free agency, Lin had dinner with Woodson and Carmelo Anthony in Beverly Hills. Lin told Sports Illustrated that Woodson said he would be the starting point guard heading into camp. Woodson told reporters the same thing last week. That was before Lin flew to Las Vegas and signed the new offer sheet.

Anthony, the Knicks star playing for Team USA, has taken some criticism for calling what the Rockets gave Lin a "ridiculous contract." But Anthony was consistent in saying he hoped Lin would be back with the Knicks and wanted to see if Lin-sanity could continue.

"I don't think nobody really has an idea what his ceiling is," Anthony told The Associated Press at the U.S. Olympic team's practice in London yesterday. "What he was able to do for that little stretch that he played before he got hurt, he was at the all-time high, from a game standpoint doing what he was able to do, averaging 20-something-plus points, almost 10 assists. I'm ready to see what's next."

But, Anthony added, "Houston threw something in the game that was kind of crazy."

It's unknown at this point whether Lin was disappointed that the Knicks made signing a veteran point guard their priority this offseason.

Had they gotten Steve Nash, it's likely Lin wouldn't have been the starter. But the Knicks ended up with Jason Kidd, who said he was fine backing up and grooming Lin. That won't happen now. Neither will Lin be electrifying the Garden crowd the way he did in February, when Lin-sanity was born.

"I love the New York fans to death. That's the biggest reason why I wanted to return to New York," said Lin, who averaged 18.2 points and 7.7 assists in 25 starts for the Knicks during his famous run. "The way they embraced me, the way they supported us this past season, was better than anything I've ever seen or experienced. I'll go to my grave saying that. What New York did for me was unbelievable.

"I wanted to play in front of those fans for the rest of my career."

As a Houston Rocket, Lin will have to settle for once a year now.

The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Knicks, Madison Square

Garden and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.

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