HOUSTON, Texas (AFP) –
Jeremy Lin, who signed a $25 million deal with Houston this week, says he first realized his days in New York were numbered when the Knicks made a surprise move to get guard Raymond Felton.
“When I saw they were talking to Raymond Felton, I was like ‘Oh, they are probably bringing in another point guard and that probably means they won’t match,’” Lin told American broadcaster ESPN.
The 23-year-old Lin was introduced Thursday at the team’s practice facility as the newest member of the Rockets — the same team that cut him seven months ago after he played a couple of exhibition games for them.
Houston owner Leslie Alexander took the opportunity Thursday to say the NBA club blundered by releasing Lin last season.
“I think I made a mistake,” Alexander said. “Daryl Morey (GM) said ‘I’m going to release him’ and I should have done a little more homework.”
The former New York Knicks star Lin was claimed off waivers by Houston after the Knicks refused to match a three-year, $25 million offer sheet for the point guard on Tuesday.
During Lin’s waiver period the Knicks chose to go out and sign Felton from Portland.
“Before free agency I didn’t think there was any chance I was going to any other team and all I wanted to do was go back to New York and play in front of those fans,” Lin said.
“At that time all I was hearing was you are going to be a Knick,” he said.
“It was pretty simple. I only had one contract to sign. I obviously love New York but I wouldn’t have visited Houston on July 4 if I didn’t think there was something that I was really interested in.”
After the Rockets announced that they had landed Lin, New York fans used social media websites — including Lin’s Facebook page — to vent their anger, posting some racist comments.
But Lin told ESPN he has developed a thick skin over the years.
“I was shocked,” said Lin, who is the first American of Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA. “You have to say something about my mom or my family for me to get really, really upset.”
Lin’s former New York teammate, Carmelo Anthony, had earlier called the offer “ridiculous.”
Lin said he hopes people will look past the $25 million he will make over the next three years and insists he did not move out of greed.
“Anyone who really knows me knows I have never been about that,” Lin said. “There are a lot of opportunities where I could have capitalized and perhaps made more money, but I wanted to focus on basketball.”
Lin rocketed to fame last season with the Knicks, thrilling New York fans with his clutch shooting and passing skills and sparking the “Linsanity” phenomenon.
Lin, whose parents are from Taiwan and who has a grandmother from China, quickly became a global sensation.
He became the first player in NBA history to score at least 20 points and pass for seven assists in his first five starts.
He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated twice and was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People as even casual basketball fans found themselves charmed by his Cinderella story.
Lin said Thursday he is thankful to the Rockets for signing him and glad he will now play on a regular basis.
“I am just excited I can have a little more job security and at the same time know that I can play every single night,” Lin said.
“I have been on the other side of things, where I had to wonder whether I was going to get into the game and be on the edge of my seat.”
The Knicks were expected to match a reported three-year, $19.5 million offer from the Rockets.
However, Lin eventually signed the higher offer sheet, which includes a $14.9 million scheduled payment for the third year.
That would have cost the Knicks millions in luxury-tax penalties levied on excessive salaries.
Lin said he wonders why the Knicks didn’t make a stronger pitch to try and keep him.
“I don’t know… To be honest I am not sure. There is a lot of speculation and uncertainly in terms of what happened,” he said.
In 35 games, Lin averaged 14.6 points, 6.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds for the Knicks.
Lin went undrafted out of Harvard before playing 29 games for Golden State during the 2010-11 season.
The Rockets are hoping Lin’s addition can elevate their brand in North American and Asia, just as having China’s Yao Ming did.
The Chinese media contingent at Thursday’s news conference was about equal to that of the United States.