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Jeremy Lin: For several teams, emerging star the one who got away

02.11.12 at 2:22 pm ET
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Jeremy Lin is riding an improbable hot streak to social media fame. (AP)For the Lakers, Lin was there for the taking.

Harvard grad Jeremy Lin came off the bench and led the New York Knicks to a 99-92 victory over the Nets at Madison Square Garden last Saturday night. On Wednesday night, he led the Knicks with 28 points and 10 assists over the Washington Wizards in his first start, and he has since inspired the viral spread of Linsanity that is sweeping the nation.

Today, several teams that could have had Lin are regretting their decisions. For the Lakers, against whom Lin scored 38 on Friday to lead the Knicks to a 92-85 win, the point guard was there for the taking.

“I knew who [Lin] was because when he was floating out there, I know Mitch had some interest in him and he brought his name up to me,” Lakers Coach Mike Brown told the Los Angeles Times, referring to General Manager Mitch Kupchak.

When the Lakers passed on Lin, he went to Houston. After a short stay there, he was released and signed over to New York, something that has inspired profound regret in Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. Morey now is on the Lin bandwagon, while noting his regret that Houston is among the 29 teams that missed an opportunity to acquire a player who has emerged as a phenomenon.

Morey tweeted: We should have kept [Lin]. Did not know he was this good. Anyone who says they knew misleading U.

In a separate tweet, he said: Finally, really happy for [Lin.] Very hard working, nice, & humble. He has a great, great future.

Even Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob expressed his regret during a radio interview at KNBR in San Francisco.

“I would be lying if I thought … he’d be this good [and] all of a sudden explode on the scene,” Lacob said, according to the New York Post. “It’s a great, perfect situation where he got an amazing opportunity. None of the other guards in New York were playing well. So I give him all the credit in the world, and obviously we wish we had him.”

Lin’s overnight success has awed fans everywhere while leaving those who passed up on him embarrassed.

Of course, the Knicks nearly lost their shot at the point guard as well. As the New York Times documents:

Lin was in danger of being waived again, by the Knicks, before he started his streak on Feb. 3. He had done little to establish himself by that point, although he showed a few glimmers in games against Houston and Boston.

But a crucial decision point was approaching: whether to keep Lin and guarantee his $788,000 contract for the season, or release him. Teams had until Feb. 7 to cut players with nonguaranteed deals, and the Knicks officials considered waiving Lin.

“His expiration date was coming up,” Coach Mike D’Antoni said in an interview earlier this week. “We had to evaluate to see if there was something there or not.”

The guarantee deadline “kind of prompted us” to give Lin more playing time, he said.

Lin was shaky in that Boston game, leaving D’Antoni feeling ambivalent. But he decided to give him another shot the next night against the Nets.

Lin responded with the best game of his career, with 25 points and seven assists off the bench in a victory over the Nets. Two nights later, he got his first start and set the bar even higher, with 28 points and 8 assists.

Suddenly, there was no decision to make. Lin will be a Knick for the rest of this season, and almost certainly beyond.

As the Times goes on to explain, Lin will almost certainly remain with the Knicks beyond this year. As a restricted free agent, New York can match any offer the point guard receives from another team without regard for the salary cap, and so it seems safe for Knicks fans to commit to buying those No. 17 jerseys for some time to come.

Read More: Daryl Morey, Golden State Warriors, Jeremy Lin, Joe Lacob Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It