The New York Daily News reported today that the Knicks might have delayed a few days in telling the world that Jeremy Lin’s torn meniscus would likely sideline him for the year.
Here’s the narrative being put forward: the Knicks hid the injury to sell playoff tickets. (Let’s ignore, for a minute, that Madison Square Garden would’ve been sold out for these games no matter what.) Despite knowing that Lin would be off the court well into the postseason before the Wednesday deadline for fans to buy playoff tickets, the Knicks still waited until the next Sunday to reveal the news. They even contradicted head coach Mike Woodson’s statement on Friday that he could be out for a while. Supposedly, fans are furious about this.
On the surface, this seems like a shady move by New York, and to some extent, it is. But think about it a little more, and it turns out to be closer to shrewd than despicable. Since the dawn of time, professional sports franchises have hemmed and feinted regarding the health of their players, for both PR reasons — who wants to watch a team when its star player is out? — and strategic reasons — it’s harder to game-plan when you don’t know who you’re game-planning for.
The Knicks had every right to lock down news of Lin’s condition until after the playoff ticket deadline. It would’ve hurt their stock if they had announced his injury, and they’re paying Lin to be an asset to the team. His injury already reduced his value, so if you’re the Knicks, you need to get from him what you can for the rest of the season.
Besides which, the primary draw of playoff tickets — that the Knicks will likely make the playoffs — remains the same. The deception is minimal here, and justified. While it might not even be worth the Knicks showing up to a playoff series against the Bulls or the Heat with Baron Davis starting at point guard, this is a grave they dug themselves months and months ago. They wouldn’t have beaten either of those teams with Lin, either. The Knicks just aren’t that good.
To put it another way: this is par for the course. For years, Bill Belichick listed Tom Brady on every single injury report, despite Brady never missing a game. Subterfuge and deception have become intrinsic elements of the gamesmanship in pro sports, and if you’re upset that you bought Knicks playoff tickets before knowing that Lin was out, you should’ve been prepared for that chance anyway, considering how often everyone’s been getting injured in this compressed NBA season. Playoff basketball is fun no matter what. You’ll still be lintertained— I mean, entertained.