Former Rockets C Yao Ming retired last July, but “there no doubt remain millions of residual Rockets fans from Beijing to Guangzhou, making it easier” for Rockets Owner Les Alexander to sign off on a three-year, $25M contract for G Jeremy Lin that “many, even hopeful Houstonians, see as being a bit over the top,” according to Dale Robertson of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. N.Y.-based PR firm 5W President & CEO Ronn Torossian said Lin is a “marketing dream come true.” However, Torossian believes that Lin will have to “raise the bar much higher in a Rockets jersey to match the riches he could have found playing on Broadway.” Robertson noted other marketing experts “contend the disparity isn’t as great as might be assumed, thanks to Lin’s Chinese ancestry and Houston’s unique synergy with the Asian market after Yao Ming.” N.Y.-based marketing firm WebiMax Founder & CEO Kenneth Wisnefski said, “I expect his value on and off court to climb as endorsement opportunities should rise. We know (the Houston) area is receptive, given the success of Yao Ming. In addition, the inroads that were developed with Yao Ming in the international Asian market can carry over and impact Jeremy Lin’s brand recognition.” Robertson noted Rockets personnel were said to be “reluctant to discuss the marketing impact of acquiring Lin, lest people think he was signed for that reason and not for his basketball skills." Robertson reported the Rockets did “happily announce that in the first 18 hours after they announced Lin was coming, they had picked up more than 3,000 new Twitter followers and 10,000 new ‘likes’ on Facebook.” The number of season-ticket sales sold since the acquisition of Lin is unknown, but Rockets Media Relations Dir Nelson Luis said, “It will take a few days before we see a lot going on. That’s the way it was when we drafted Yao” (CHRON.com, 7/18).
REDUCING LIN-VENTORY: In N.Y. Richard Sandomir writes under the header, “Lin Is Gone, And So Is The Buzz.” It is “time to unload his merchandise” at N.Y.-area stores, and at Modell’s locations, $20 Lin T-shirts were reduced to $5, while replica jerseys were discounted from $60 to $20. Lin’s $90 swingman jerseys were cut to $40. Modell’s CEO Mitch Modell said, “This could be the biggest markdown on a traded player in our 123-year history.” Sandomir notes Lin Knicks apparel is “still for sale at the NBA store online, but none of his Rockets merchandise is ready.” NBA Exec VP/Global Marketing Sal LaRocca said that fans can “personalize the online retailer’s stock of blank Houston jerseys with Lin’s name and number” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/19). The Rockets’ website has an offer to pre-order an adult-size Lin No. 7 replica jersey for $55.43 (USA TODAY, 7/19). Steiner Sports CEO Brandon Steiner said, “We’re trying to understand the Houston market, determine if Lin will have the same level of fame and intensity. We hope so. But New York is a special place. You can’t compare to New York” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/19).
CRITISICIM FOR DOLAN: In New Jersey, John Rowe writes Knicks Owner James Dolan “showed his true colors in the handling of Jeremy Lin’s restricted free agency.” It is how the Knicks “first encouraged Lin to bring them an offer sheet from another team and how they reacted when the bottom line was more than they anticipated.” Rowe added Dolan “went as far as to criticize Lin behind the scenes for being disloyal to the team that gave him a shot and for hiring a publicist” (Bergen RECORD, 7/19). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said the Knicks leaking information about Lin is a "lowlife, low-rent move even for Knicks management. … It’s classless.” ESPN's Chris Broussard said, "Instead of the focus being on them losing this superstar that they had, at least in terms of his celebrity, they want to put the focus him and why he left” (“PTI,” ESPN, 7/18). In N.Y., Harvey Araton asks whether Dolan did not re-sign Lin “on the grounds of his being an ingrate and daring to exploit his leverage for what could be the one time in his basketball career?” In “contrast to Lin’s work, there is more than a sampling of Dolan’s, enabling us to make an educated guess as to how cool and calculated he was upon learning that Lin and the Rockets had conspired to make their deal even more tax punitive for him to match” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/19). Meanwhile, Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said the Knicks have “overspent for 15 years and they have nothing to show for it." Paige: "Suddenly, they’re going to be financially responsible?” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 7/18).
THE RIGHT MOVE: In Baltimore, Steven Petrella noted Knicks management "is finally putting its foot down and not giving into the fan base and pitchfork wielding fans, but instead doing what makes the most sense for the future of the franchise” (BALTIMORESUN.com, 7/18). In San Jose, Tim Kawakami writes Lin was the “most exciting thing to happen to the franchise in decades, and his departure rightly sparked local outrage.” But the Lin “contract saga is a classic NBA conundrum: Really, what is he worth?” Kawakami writes, “In the monthlong burst of ‘Linsanity’ last season, Lin proved he can be a dynamic difference-maker. He's also probably never going to be special enough to merit the attention he has already received and the contract he just got ... and his NBA peers know this” (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 7/19).
ROCKETS’ RED GLARE: In N.Y., Howard Beck notes Rockets GM Daryl Morey has been criticized by some "for violating an unwritten code by changing the terms of Lin’s deal." However, it "was a legal maneuver ... because no contract had been signed.” Two league execs said that Morey was “well within bounds, technically and ethically” and “praised Morey for the bold maneuver” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/19). Alexander said that the “benefits to the business of basketball are nice, but far from the motivation, instead citing how they might help the Rockets rebuild.” Alexander said of the signing, “I love it. I think it’s great for the city of Houston. It’s great for the fans. I think a team needs to have that attention to attract free agents and do what we have to do to win. It helps. It always helps (the business), but the real reason is it helps to attract free agents” (CHRON.com, 7/18).