The Knicks organization was almost certain to resign Lin, if not for his performance on the court, but for his ability to increase MSG Network ratings, which had jumped 70% since Lin's emergence. New York claimed to be willing to match any offer for Lin, a restricted free agent, "up to $1 billion." The Houston Rockets had originally offered Lin a $28.8 million deal over four years, with the fourth year being the team's option. Knicks' coach Mike Woodson publicly stated that the New York would match that offer, and that Lin would be the starting point guard. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey quickly revised the contract to a three-year deal worth $25 million, with Lin being paid $14.8 million in the final "poison pill" year of the contract. Following the acquisition of point guard Raymond Felton, the Knicks declined to match Houston's offer. New York fans were infuriated, including myself. The Knicks organization claimed that the $43 million they would have to pay for Lin in the third year of his contract, including luxury taxes, was too high of a price, but there was speculation that some players, including Carmelo Anthony, felt insulted that Lin was suddenly stealing the limelight in New York, and would be a more expensive asset than anyone else on the team. It also may have been because Knicks owner James Dolan felt betrayed by Lin, when he out-negotiated New York management by returning to the bargaining table to re-write the original contract the Houston had presented. With the blink of an eye, Lin, the Knicks' most popular player since Patrick Ewing, had left New York for Houston.
The Rockets had also added star guard James Harden, whom they acquired from Oklahoma City in exchange for Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb. By pairing Harden and Lin, Houston was hoping it could have one of the more versatile, and unselfish, back-courts in the league. So far this season, the duo have not disappointed. Harden has averaged 26.4 points and 5.6 points per game. Meanwhile Lin, who had a slow start to the year, has averaged 12.7 points to go along 6.2 assists in close to 33 minutes per game.
Tonight, the Rockets made their lone trip to the Verizon Center to take on the Washington Wizards, who were coming off a win against Denver the previous night. It was a busy day inside the arena. Earlier in the day, the Washington Capitals had defeated the New Jersey Devils 5-1. I had worked that game as a fan photographer, as well, so after a trip to a couple of local bars at the conclusion of the hockey game, I returned to the Verizon Center to find an arena that was a still a work in progress, as it prepared for a 7:00 PM tip-off. It was amazing to see that there were already fans filing into the arena, despite it not being fully set-up.
|An employee slides part of the basketball floor into place|
|A Capitals employee helps to prepare the court before the Wizards game|
|An employee hammers the edge of the basketball floor into place|
|The corporation assumes its command over the employee|
|An employee mopping the court prior to the game|
|An employee helps set up the court-side area before the game|
|An employee starts to up the seating section behind the basket|
|An employee operating the forklift|
|An employee helps to set up the seating section behind the basket|
|Wizards guard John Wall, right, and foward Trevor Ariza, left, relaxing during pregame warmups|
|John Wall, foreground, chatting with fellow former Kentucky Wildcat, and current Houston Rockets forward, Terrence Jones|
|John Wall warming up an hour and a half before tip-off|
|A Capitals employee, left, and a Wizards employee, right, lend each other a helping hand to set up the press table|
|The court-side thrones: A pile of event level chairs waiting to be set up|
|An employee fixes some unhinged chairs in the lower level|
Beal led the Wizards to what was their sixth win in eight games with 21 points and 5 rebounds. Trevor Ariza contributed 18 points and 6 assists off the bench, and Emeka Okafor had another double-double, tallying 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Houston was led by Harden with 27 points and 6 assists. Chandler Parsons added 24 points and 7 assists in the loss. Meanwhile, Lin, the big draw for the evening, only managed 5 points and 6 assists on 2-9 shooting from the field.