Jeremy Lin loves New York. He wanted to stay.
Even so, it was more important to him to be on the court as a starting point guard, and he's convinced the Houston Rockets will put him there.
"They made a very compelling pitch in terms of what I could bring to the team and for the city," Lin said in a statement released through the team Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the Knicks decided not to match Houston's bold three-year, $25 million offer sheet. "I am also impressed with (Houston owner Leslie) Alexander and the management's commitment to improving the team."
The Rockets put out the statement not long after SI.com reported that Lin had acknowledged in an interview, "Honestly, I preferred New York. But my main goal in free agency was to go to a team that had plans for me and wanted me. I wanted to have fun playing basketball."
Fun is what the 23-year-old undrafted guard was all about last season.
Coming out of nowhere — well, Harvard, by way of Golden State and then Houston — Lin got to New York when the Knicks claimed him off waivers in December. He was briefly demoted to the developmental league, recalled, and got his chance to play when coach Mike D'Antoni put him in with the Knicks floundering at 8-15.
He scored 25 points in a 99-92 win over New Jersey Nets and "Linsanity" was born. Soon New York was in playoff contention and Lin was having drinks named after him.
Lin said Wednesday that he "loved this past year with the Knicks and truly appreciate the opportunity that New York gave me," even though the team decided to let him go.
"The way the fans fully embraced me and our team was something I'll always cherish forever," he said.
And now it's on to Houston, which made its move and got its man.
Why did the Rockets go for him? Because it made basketball sense and marketing sense.
The Rockets not only filled a position of need, but also snagged a player who may re-establish the franchise in Asia, where the team enjoyed massive popularity during Yao Ming's career.
BLAZERS MATCH ON BATUM: The Portland Trail Blazers weren't bluffing about Nicolas Batum after all. The Blazers matched Minnesota's four-year offer sheet worth more than $45 million for the restricted free agent, keeping the 23-year-old swingman in Portland just like GM Neil Olshey said they would all along.
RAPTORS SIGN VALANCIUNAS: The Toronto Raptors have signed Lithuanian 7-footer Jonas Valanciunas, the fifth overall pick of the 2011 draft.
JAMISON TO SIGN WITH LAKERS: A person with direct knowledge of the decision says free agent forward Antawn Jamison will sign a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers. The 36-year-old Jamison will sign for the veteran's minimum salary, bolstering the Lakers' bench with scoring and veteran leadership. He averaged 17.2 points for the Cavs last season.
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