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

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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.