The New York Knicks decision to let guard Jeremy Lin sign a free-agent contract with the Houston Rockets is already costing them money.
The Knicks didn’t match Houston’s three-year, $25 million offer by yesterday’s deadline for Lin, a Harvard University graduate and the first Chinese- or Taiwanese-American to play in the National Basketball Association.
One-year sponsorships with Taiwan-based Maxxis International, a tire manufacturer, and Acer Inc. the fourth-largest computer maker, ended after a season in which Lin averaged 14.6 points and 6.2 assists in 35 NBA games with the Knicks. His clutch shooting and passing made him an international sensation and inspired the catchphrase “Linsanity.”
“We are definitely interested in a sponsorship with the Houston Rockets,” said Matt Clark, marketing manager for Maxxis International, USA. “We are a Taiwanese-based company and not only are we excited about Jeremy Lin and the exposure he is getting throughout the U.S., but he is huge over in Asia.”
Lin had provided “big exposure for us over there,” Clark said in a telephone interview today.
“We’re proud of what he’s done, and we’re looking for opportunities through the Rockets now,” he said.
Maxxis’s sponsorship with the Knicks included courtside signs, an electronic advertising wrap on the sidelines, courtside, the back cover of the Knicks’ yearbook and a poster give-away night. The company is interested in a similar package with the Rockets, Clark said without revealing a dollar figure.
Nelson Luis, the Rockets’ spokesman, was in Las Vegas for the NBA’s summer league and unavailable to comment. A telephone message left for his assistant, Tracey Hughes, wasn’t immediately returned.
Calls left before the start of business with Acer in San Jose, California, weren’t immediately returned.
The Coca-Cola Co. placed advertisements in Chinese at courtside of Madison Square Garden last season once Lin grabbed international attention. Coke has a large sponsorship package with the arena that won’t be affected by Lin’s departure, said Stacey Escudero, a Madison Square Garden spokeswoman.
Lin increased the Knicks’ television ratings, merchandise, tickets sales and sponsorships after joining the team’s lineup Feb. 6. Now, he is returning to the team that signed him as an undrafted rookie and cut him before he signed with the Knicks.
The 23-year-old guard, who had surgery in April to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, will become Houston’s starting point guard after the Rockets traded Kyle Lowry to the Toronto Raptors.
The Knicks recently acquired two veteran point guards, Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton, and decided against matching the Rockets’ offer for Lin. The deal is a back-loaded contract that, under the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement, would have cost New York $25 million to $35 million more in the final season because of the league’s luxury tax.