Thursday, July 19, 2012
Why The Knicks Really Let Jeremy Lin Walk.
This is the latest blunder in a long and storied saga of failure for the embattled Knicks owner. Sure, he landed STAT and 'Melo, but the Knicks' playoff record since those supposedly momentous acquisitions is an abysmal 1-8. However, you can't blame Dolan for cancelling Season Two of Linsanity: NYC. It's not his fault. Arena Apothecary has obtained the exclusive scoop on why New York allowed Lin to go ply his trade in the Texas desert instead of Madison Square Garden. As you might imagine, it's a tawdry and sordid tale, but I swear it's all true. Our story begins as these things so often do, with a phone call in the dead of night ...
Houston, Texas. July 11, 2012. 3:43 AM
Daryl Morey hadn't been sleeping well of late, so the ringing didn't jolt him out of a deep and restful slumber or anything close to it. He didn't even glance away from his computer screen, plastered with a myriad of windows filled with players' stats, salaries, and other various arcana. He just lifted the receiver out of its cradle; didn't even glance at the caller ID.
"Code Word: Avalon," said a voice Morey recognized. It was digitally altered to prevent actual identification of the speaker, but he'd heard it a lot over the past week or so and, being the shrewd man he was, Daryl had a pretty fair idea of who was on the other end of the line. Or at least who the voice represented.
"Understood." Morey put the phone down, wondered if he should proceed immediately, and decided against it. In the morning, he'd set things in motion. He was a man who understood patience and consideration; for whom the biding of time was as easy and natural as breath. Things had not gone according to plan of late, and he wasn't sure how much "Avalon" would help, but it would be a step in the right direction.
He was going to get back something he'd lost.
New York, New York. July 15, 1:07 PM
The point guard's phone chirped at him from his pocket, the opening to the second movement of Stravinsky's "Right Of Spring" signifying a new text message. The sender was not a contact he recognized, and the number had 13 digits. Puzzled, he thumbed the screen:
HELLO JEREMY. HOW ARE YOU?
He stared, wondering if this was an elaborate joke of some kind.
WHO IS THIS? He replied.
YOU DO NOT NEED TO KNOW. THEY SIGNED JASON KIDD, JEREMY. THEY TRADED FOR RAYMOND FELTON. THEY DO NOT APPRECIATE YOU. THEY DO NOT WANT YOU.
WHO IS THIS? IDENTIFY YOURSELF OR I'M CALLING THE COPS AND HAVING THEM TRACE THIS NUMBER.
THEY ARE NOT GOING TO MATCH THE OFFER SHEET, JEREMY.
WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THAT? THIS ISN'T FUNNY!!!!
YOU DROPPED 38 ON THE LAKERS. YOU SAVED THE SEASON. AND THEY ARE SIGNING OTHER POINT GUARDS. THEY WILL NOT MATCH THE OFFER SHEET.
OF COURSE THEY WILL. I WANT TO STAY IN NEW YORK, AND THEY WANT ME HERE. THEY'LL SIGN ME. NOW PLEASE, WHOEVER THIS IS, KNOCK IT OFF.
THEY ARE NOT GOING TO SIGN YOU. WOULD YOU ENJOY PLAYING IN HOUSTON AGAIN, JEREMY? WE CAN ARRANGE FOR YOU TO BE ELSEWHERE IF YOU WOULD PREFER.
NO, I CAN PLAY IN HOUSTON. THAT WOULD BE OKAY, I GUESS. BUT HOW DO YOU KNOW ALL THIS?
WE KNOW. HOUSTON WILL WELCOME YOU, JEREMY. THEY ARE SORRY ABOUT LETTING YOU GO IN TE FIRST PLACE. THEY WILL FIND YOU PICK'N'ROLL PARTNERS AND LET YOU RUN THE OFFENSE.
IT WOULD BE NICE NOT DEALING WITH CARMELO NEEDING THE BALL ALL THE TIME, I GUESS ...
EXACTLY, JEREMY. YOU WILL LIKE HOUSTON THIS TIME. WE PROMISE YOU WILL NOT BE SLEEPING ON ANYONE'S COUCH THERE. PACK YOUR BAGS.
ONLY IF THE KNICKS DON'T MATCH.
THEY WILL NOT. ENJOY YOUR TIME LEFT IN NEW YORK. WE WISH YOU SAFE TRAVELS. DO NOT TELL ANYONE ABOUT THIS.
He slipped the phone back into his pocket in a daze. He wasn't sure how they could possibly know what his team would do, but he was sure they were right. Maybe Houston would be better this time, after all. Maybe he could simply play good basketball without being the center of all this lunacy again. Maybe.
Brooklyn, New York. July 16, 2012. 9:35 PM
James Dolan stepped off the elevator feeling somewhat curious but mostly terrified. The two large men in somber dark suits who flanked him hadn't said anything since they forced him into that ostentatiously appointed limo. He had no idea where he was. They'd taken off the blindfold in the lobby of what appeared to be a shabby, nondescript hotel. Peeling wallpaper and one forlorn, dying plant in a flea market-quality vase had met his eyes upon its removal, and things had not improved in the last two minutes. That was how long the ancient, decrepit elevator had taken to climb six harrowing floors, creaking and lurching the entire way like The Little Engine That Could with a pack-a-day habit and a bum wheel. As disoriented and scared as he was, Dolan was at least grateful to be back on what he hoped was solid, not-rotted-through ground. A little way down the hall, one of the men escorting him stopped by a room whose number had been scratched off the door and executed an incredibly elaborate knock that, now Dolan thought about it, sounded an awful lot like the drum intro to Led Zeppelin's "Rock'N'Roll." (He didn't know that it was actually the snare drum part to a scherzo by Dmitri Shostakovich.) The door swung open, and the men in suits gestured for him to enter.
The sight that greeted him was as far removed from the dismal aesthetics of the hallway as humanly imaginable. Two figures were silhouetted by elaborate yet tasteful back-lighting. One man was sitting in what appeared to be an actual gilded throne. The other stood to the right and slightly behind the seated figure. Both were smoking what smelled like very expensive cigars, and the wall behind them was adorned with what might well be an authentic Degas. The man on the throne dangled a finger in a glass of what was most likely very expensive alcohol.
Opulence, Dolan thought. He has it.
The smaller man, the standing one, spoke first. "Mr. Dolan. You are not going to match Jeremy Lin's offer sheet. You will let him go."
Dolan lunged forward. "Are you kidding me?!?!?!? The guy is a certified marketing goldmine!!! On top of that, he might not be a terrible player either!!! We -- accchhhh!"
That was when the men in suits restrained him rather forcefully.
"Mr. Dolan," said the man. "My employer here would like his team to have a most glorious new beginning. In Brooklyn. We would be assisted in that objective if you allowed Jeremy Lin to leave. You will let Mr. Lin go. This will appear insane, but you have made so many crazy moves in your tenure already that people will not look too hard at this one. They will say that you are weak and stupid, as you have been before. Your fans hate when anyone famous and important leaves your city. You are going let your most important sensation in two decades go to Houston, which will be particularly insulting because it is perhaps the third-best city in Texas. There will be outrage and agony in the streets, and many Knicks fans will disavow your team to come root for my employer's much cooler and less heartbreaking team. This will come to pass."
"And what, exactly, makes you think I'll do that?"
"If you do not, we will pay every musician within 300 miles a hundred thousand dollars per year NOT to play with you ever again. JD and the Straight Shot will cease to exist."
"That's insane! No one has that kind of money!!!"
"We do, Mr. Dolan. We. Do. Your music is an abomination anyway. Joe Turner and Bobby Blue Bland roll over several times in their graves when you open your mouth. We will be doing the world a favor."
"So I'm supposed to let Lin go, take a beating in the media, and in exchange you won't actively crush my dreams of musical glory?"
"No more than you crush them by being on stage."
Dolan paused. The man's proposal was ludicrous. Surely they were bluffing! At the same time, he couldn't just let his awesome blues band die. When else could he where those sweet blazer-and-jeans outfits on stage? When else could he ease the pain in his soul with song?
"OK, I'll do it. It's not like I care anyway. It's just a stupid basketball team."
"A wise choice, Mr. Dolan. We will be in contact soon about acquiring Madison Square Garden as our venue in 2018. Good night."
The two imposing men in suits led him out of the room and back down the hallway. As they neared the elevators, the doors opened and a familiar figure stepped out. Dolan's jaw dropped to the floor.
"David? What's going on David? What the hell is happening?"
The man walked by without a thought or a glance. At that moment, James Dolan's blood pressure hit critical mass.
"YOU DID THIS!!! YOU MADE ME GIVE HIM UP!!! IT WAS YOU!!! WHY?!??!!? IT'S BETTER FOR THE LEAGUE WHEN WE'RE GOOD!!! WHY?!?!!?"
In a calm, soft voice the bespectacled man replied. He was barely audible in the dingy hall, but his word cut through Dolan like a knife.
"No sleep til Brooklyn, Jim. They are the future. And your band sucks."
New York, New York. July 17, 2012. 4:00 PM
Sources at ESPN announce that the Knicks will not match Jeremy Lin's offer sheet. Feelings of outrage and betrayal surge through the populace. Pandemonium in the streets.
Somewhere, the man who sat on the gilded throne and said nothing while his underling cajoled one of the most powerful owners in sports is smiling. Jeremy Lin is gone. The Knicks are no longer a viable threat, at least not from a publicity and marketing vantage point. Gotham is his.