The Knicks planned to cut ties with Jeremy Lin on Tuesday, allowing the popular point guard who spawned "Lin-sanity" in New York to head to Houston, the New York Times reported.
Lin's fate has been the subject of intense speculation since he became a restricted free agent this month. He inked a $25 million offer sheet with the Rockets, but the Knicks had the option of matching it until midnight Tuesday night.
"The Knicks plan to cut ties with Jeremy Lin on Tuesday night," the Times reported, citing "a person briefed on the decision".
The Knicks had vowed to match any offer Lin received. But the Rockets' offer included a $14.9 million scheduled payment for the third year, which would have cost the Knicks millions in luxury-tax penalties on excessive salaries.
Although the Knicks still had hours to change their minds, dismayed fans were already voicing their disappointment.
"We're losing more than one player. He was a symbol of the city," Jason Gutierrez, a 29-year-old musician, told AFP outside the NBA Store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
Mary Anne Jones, a 42-year-old sales assistant from New York's East Village, said it didn't make sense to part with the 23-year-old Lin when the Knicks had just acquired NBA veteran point Jason Kidd -- who was expected to serve as Lin's mentor and backup.
"We got a 39-year-old player and we let (Lin) go. I don't understand," she said. "I think it's a big mistake. He's a young, gifted player. I'm sure the fans will miss him."
Knicks star Carmelo Anthony had been among those hoping the young point guard would stay, although he knew money would be an issue.
"I would love to see him back, honestly. I would definitely love to see him back," Anthony said after a US Olympic team exhibition win over Brazil in Washington on Monday.
"But knowing the business of basketball, it's kind of a tough situation, kind of for both parties," Anthony said.
Lin, whose parents are from Taiwan and whose grandmother is from China, became a smash Broadway hit during last season after having been cut by two NBA clubs -- including the Rockets.
Injuries to two starters allowed the former Harvard University standout a chance to come off the Knicks bench and Lin responded by sparking a seven-game Knicks winning streak, his clutch shooting and passing skills earning him adoration from fans.
"Lin-sanity" became a worldwide phenomenon and even after his role was reduced, he served as an inspirational tale.
"Bye bye Knicks... am not Knicks fan anymore," Jen-Jung Fan wrote on the Knicks' Facebook page, just one of a welter of pro-Lin postings.