Here's why the Knicks were reportedly uninterested in Jeremy Lin in free agency
Knicks continue to try and re-imagine history after letting a popular player walk amid talk of conflict between star players.
In 2012, after a scintillating season that brought Knicks fans real hope and excitement when Jeremy Lin sparked the phenomenon known as "Linsanity," there was much discussion that Carmelo Anthony was lukewarm on the attention that Lin was getting. This was not a superstar coming to help him, not someone he expected or wanted, and Lin, being a point guard, needed the ball consistently.
For whatever reason, the Knicks did not bring back maybe the most popular player outside of Anthony in a decade, and instead let him walk in free agency to Houston.
Lin was fine in Houston, and not good with the Lakers. With the Hornets last year, however, he was terrific on both ends, playing surprisingly solid defense and playing a major part in the Hornets reaching the sixth seed.
Lin spoke with reporters this week and said outside criticism doesn't bother him, a common refrain from athletes, no matter its veracity. What's maybe more interesting, however, is the New York Post reporting that it was defense that led the Knicks to not want to bring Lin back this summer.
"If my life was done by what everyone else expected of me, I would've been done with playing a long time ago. I don't really care what anyone else has to say,'' said Lin, whose struggles on defense left the Knicks uninterested in a reunion, a source told The Post.
But Hornets coach Steve Clifford praised Lin's defense to the Charlotte Observer.
Well, this is patently absurd.
For starters, let's go back to when he left New York. The Knicks had a 96.7 defensive rating with Lin on court in 2012, and a 99.0 mark with him off. They gave up more points with him off the floor. Even if you say he himself was not a plus defender, he obviously didn't hurt the team in a clear way. Individually, Synergy Sports had Lin that season in the 64th percentile defensively in points per possession allowed.
Now, there are issues with both metrics, and Lin was not a great defender by any stretch this season. He was legitimately good last year, as Clifford told the Post though. The Hornets were nearly three points better defensively with Lin on the court this year, roughly the same amount as that New York stint. He was ranked in the 50th percentile in individual defense via Synergy Sports, and 78th percentile in isolation. He's able to pressure the ball and drive guys to help. He's not going to swallow up top flight guards or make big plays, but he's very solid and legitimately helped the Hornets on that end.
Lin is not a great player. He's a good backup point guard who can start in an emergency, who can shoot a little, pass a little, and has learned how to effectively run an offense. Letting him go after one breakout season where he also struggled once teams started scheming him is not a major failure. It's OK to just let him go, and he hasn't been a superstar since. He would have helped the Knicks, probably more than the team they put together after, a fool's gold 2013 team that won 54 games and were always destined to be trounced by a more disciplined Pacers team in the playoffs. But letting Lin go is no major screw up in the franchise's history.
The bigger thing here is that the Knicks continue to try to re-imagine history. Linsanity was not a thing the Knicks anticipated, and that was in part unlocked by then-coach Mike D'Antoni who was fired later that season after clashes with Anthony. This doesn't have to be all Anthony's fault, and Anthony made a real effort last season to mesh with Kristaps Porzingis. But there's substantially more reason to think the Knicks let Lin go and continue to not pursue him because of his defense.
Because any examination of that theory doesn't hold up at all.
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