The play of the Knicks this season is already becoming an afterthought, and the season has not even started. The Knicks are again expected to be a bottom-feeder team in the Eastern Conference, residing in the same gutter since 2005.
While the majority of the team is entering contract years, playing for a new pay day, the one man that potentially blocks King James from coming to New York, Jared Jeffries, is playing to regain his pride.
Jeffries, who has a large contract that runs through 2011, is taking up precious cap space that the Knicks yearn to use to attract the stars of 2010. After averaging 3.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game in his two seasons as a Knick, in addition to coping with all the negative attention, Jeffries is fighting for redemption.
Signed as a defensive specialist, he is now pleasing his offensive-minded coach, Mike D’Antoni, with his jump shot and has won a spot in the opening night starting lineup over Danilo Gallinari.
Over the two seasons that Jeffries has failed Knicks fans, he has been the bearer of boos and jeers every time he misses a layup or a free throw, or even lets a defender slip by him. Even so, the oft-injured forward is quite a versatile player, able to play four different positions.
When Mike D’Antoni arrived in New York, there was talk that he could transform Jeffries into the next Boris Diaw, another versatile player who thrived under D’Antoni, winning the Most Improved Player Award after his successful 2005-06 campaign.
After an impressive preseason this year in which Jeffries averaged 8.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in seven contests, he can certainly exhale. The spotlight on Jeffries has somewhat dimmed, yet if there is any at all, it is because he has turned the heads of many beat writers with his moderate achievements.
The only ugly statistic for Jeffries the past month was his field goal percentage, which was at an atrocious 34.5 percent, higher than just Gallinari and Darko Milicic. Since Jeffries was not able to convert jump shots last season, his preseason display was essentially an improvement, but nothing to brag about.
The Knicks have enough offensive-starved players on the team wasting away jump shots, and do not need another. Jeffries can take homage in the fact that if the shot clock is running down and no one else is open, he now has a chance to knock down a jumper or two. Other than that, it is time to stick to what he knows best—defense.
The key for Jeffries this season is to lay low and stay under the radar. If he can provide the Knicks with some consistent defense and competent offense, he could avoid being blamed for the Knicks’ failure to sign a big star next summer.
With Donnie Walsh in denial about the current state of the team, thinking that a star or two would be easily attracted, both Jeffries’ contract and his play may inadvertently become the team’s scapegoat.
This preseason, Jared Jeffries put forth a valiant effort to regain his pride, and I for one, am thoroughly impressed. So impressed, that I, myself, have dished out a helpful assist. Should Jeffries stick to this plan, he may avoid another season of hissing from the sidelines.
Could he eventually hear cheers? With all the attention turned away, Jared could find good fortune. If he’s lucky, his redemption may very well be followed by fan approval.