Kurt Helin

Report: Knicks didn’t pursue Jeremy Lin in free agency because of defensive concerns


If this report is accurate, it shows the Knicks front office is thinking like it’s still 2011.

The Knicks certainly needed to upgrade at the point guard position this summer, and they did that — but at a cost — in trading for Derrick Rose. The Knicks focused on Rose and didn’t go after some of the name free agent point guards on the market, in particular former Knick Jeremy Lin, who signed with the Nets.

Why? Defensive concerns, according to a report by Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

“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.

Let’s be clear: Today, Jeremy Lin is a better defender than Derrick Rose. That wasn’t the case five years ago, but it is now. Look at figures like defensive win shares or ESPN’s real plus/minus and you can see it in the stats, or better yet watch them both play within their systems and it’s clear.

Peak Rose was a good defender, thanks to his exceptional athleticism. Put him in Tom Thibodeau’s system where he had great help and rim protection behind him and Rose made plays. But for today’s Rose that athleticism isn’t there anymore, his effort is inconsistent on that end, and without that rim protection backing him up last season Rose was exposed defensively at points.

Lin has a reputation as a poor defender, and he once was, but he’s developed into someone decent on that end of the floor. He’s a big point guard and he’s learned to use that size to frustrate smaller guards, plus that size allows versatility, he can be put on a two guard at times as well. Lin can still get beat off the bounce — Dwyane Wade did it to him plenty in the playoffs — but he recovers fairly well. He’s become a solid defender. Charlotte coach Steve Clifford, a defense-first guy, praised Lin last season defensively, and the Hornets were three points per 100 possessions better defensively when Lin was on the court.

There can be a variety of reasons the Knicks thought Rose was better suited to run Jeff Hornacek’s system than Lin. Plus, Rose is in the final year of his contract and is as healthy as he’s been in a while so maybe the Knicks see a return to glory — or something close to it — coming this season.

But if the Knicks didn’t go after Lin because of his defense, they remember the Linsanity version of him, not the player he’s become.

Jerry West on free agency: “if I had an opportunity to leave the Lakers I would have left”

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Jerry West, the Laker icon with a statue in front of Staples Center who is now part of the brain trust of the Golden State Warriors, has been defending the choice of Kevin Durant to come West this summer. As you might expect from one of the guys who helped recruit KD to the Warriors.

This week during The TK Show, a podcast hosted by San Jose Mercury News sports columnist Tim Kawakami, West took that a step further and said that if free agency had been around when he played he would not be the same Laker icon.

“I remember years ago, if I had an opportunity to leave the Lakers I would have left, for one reason: because I did not like an owner that was not telling me the truth. It would have made no difference what they would have offered me, I would have left. It’s easy to say after the fact, but players have earned the right to go where they want to go.”

The Lakers were owned at the time by Jack Kent Cooke, who was not exactly loved by the players. To put it kindly.

Today, if a player is frustrated with the direction the owner is taking the team, that player can leave as a free agent. Back in West’s day, there was no free agency as it exists now. West was essentially locked into his Laker contract and wasn’t going anywhere unless the team wanted to trade him.

This is not to say that Durant left Oklahoma City because of ownership. There were a number of factors that moved him.

Many players we consider franchise icons from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s would have had very different careers if they had the freedom of movement today’s players have. Free agency in the form we would recognize today didn’t arrive in the NBA until 1988. To suggest those older icons wouldn’t have used that power — or wouldn’t have teamed up with other stars — is to live in a fantasy world. Given the chance, those players would have bounced around just like today’s players do.

Unlike a lot of older players, West understands that.



John Wall shows up for Redskins home game in Cowboys’ jersey


John Wall is a Dallas Cowboys fan. Always has been. He was born in North Carolina but has said the Cowboys were his mother’s team so they became his.

Even after he was drafted by Washington, a city where the Cowboys are as unpopular as campaign finance reform. Wall was not changing who he is.

Wall was on the sidelines in Washington Sunday — the Cowboys sideline, and he was wearing a throwback Emmit Smith jersey.

Wall left a happy man as the Cowboys won 27-23.

LeBron James and family were at Rams’ return to Los Angeles, fans start “Kobe” chant

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The place to be in Los Angeles Sunday was downtown at the Los Angeles Coliseum, where the Los Angeles Rams played their first home game in that building since “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” was on top of the Billboard charts.

LeBron James was there with his family — and Rams owner Sam Kroenke (who used to own the Denver Nuggets, but had to turn the team over to his wife and son because of conflicts owning an NBA and NFL team, plus having the Colorado Avalanche).

When LeBron walked out to the sidelines, he was reminded what basketball star still owns Los Angeles.

The Rams are a big hit in Los Angeles, and while their offense appears to have been lost in the move from St. Louis, the defense was good enough to get the Rams a 9-3 win over the Seahawks on Sunday.

Sunday afternoon video: Top 10 career plays for 2016 Hall of Famers Shaq, Iverson, Yao Ming

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Rather than get frustrated as your fantasy team disappoints again this Sunday, why not take a few minutes (nine of them, to be specific) to watch the career highlights of the biggest names in the 2016 Hall of Fame class.

Shaquille O’Neal. Yao Ming. Allen Iverson.

Sit back and enjoy.