By Sean Hartnett
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It would've been an easy PR move -- and a wise marketing decision -- for the Knicks to bring back Jeremy Lin.
The fan base was enthralled. Lin's underdog story, rise to fame and clean-cut image won over metro-area basketball casuals as "Linsanity" took on a life of its own.
Lucrative global sponsorships, TV ratings through the roof, enormous memorabilia and jersey sales worldwide. Lin was pure marketing gold.
His rise to prominence played a key role in ending the bitter MSG-Time Warner Cable dispute. After eight days of "Linsanity," MSG gained $71 million in market capitalization. On May 4, MSG reported a 60-percent rise in quarterly earnings as revenue went up 21 percent. By July, MSG's market capitalization was up to $600 million.
Keeping Lin would've been the perfect way for the Knicks to launch their new 2012-13 jerseys. Fans who bought 2011-12 style Knicks jerseys would've been repeat customers for the Knicks' retro-themed duds had Lin remained in New York. He had truly become a global marketing icon, but also a money-making machine for The Madison Square Garden company.
Lin Would've Continued To Be Marketing Gold For The Knicks
Say what you'd like about the "poison pill" contract, but his off-court value would've far exceeded luxury tax costs. Forbes estimated in February that Lin would boost team revenue by approximately $25-$50 million in the 2012-2013 season and $75-$150 million over the course of his contract.
It seems the decision to let Lin go had more to do with Knicks owner James Dolan's furor over a perceived betrayal by Lin -- not actual finances.
Knicks Made Right On-Court Decision By Acquiring Felton
Lin's decision to sign Houston's revised three-year, $25.1 million dollar offer sheet opened the door for Knicks general manager Glen Grunwald to swiftly acquire former Garden fav0rite Raymond Felton from the Portland Trail Blazers.
The bright lights of New York have always brought the best out of Felton. Before being dealt to the Denver Nuggets as part of the package to acquire Carmelo Anthony, Felton was having the finest year of his career as a Knick.
He was averaging career bests in points per game (17.1), assists per game (9.0) and steals per game (1.8).
Statistics aren't accurately measuring what Felton brings to the Knicks. While Lin is posting better averages of 15.3 points per game and 7.3 assists per game compared to Felton's 13.7 points per game and 6.0 assists per game, Felton is shooting a higher field-goal percentage of .444 and is playing nine fewer minutes per game.
Felton Has Knicks' Offense Running On All Cylinders
What the Knicks are getting in Felton is a proven floor general. He plays the pick and roll better than Lin, whose game is predicated on cuts to the basket. Felton's influence has the Knicks demonstrating unselfish ball movement and everyone is getting involved. They're looking very fluid with Felton at the controls.
The Knicks' offense has exploded for 104.6 points per game. Through three games, it ranks fourth-best in the NBA and they've given up a league-low 85.3 points per game.
New York's point differential per game is also a league high 19.3 per game and a large part of the credit is due to Felton's steady play on both ends of the court.
Has Felton already justified the Knicks' decision? Sound off below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.
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