New York Knicks: Recognizing the Importance of the Return of Jared Jeffries

Keith SchlosserAnalyst IMarch 7, 2011

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 07:  Jerryd Bayless #4 of the Portland Trail Blazers drives to the basket against Jared Jeffries #20 of the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on December 7, 2009 in New York, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

For much of his three and a half seasons (of his first stint) as a New York Knickerbocker, Jared Jeffries was only a reminder of the frustration and failure brought upon the Knicks by Isiah Thomas.

That being said, when finally none of that mattered anymore, (with Thomas out of the official loop), Jeffries was used by coach Mike D’Antoni as the Knicks’ defensive stopper and secret weapon last season. While Thomas may have overpaid for Jeffries, the team was, nevertheless, moving forward from such gripes and simply working with what they had.

That was, until Jeffries’ time as a Knick came to an end. The team made a major move at the trade deadline with the Rockets and Kings that financially prepared them for what was sure to be a busy summer, as Donnie Walsh rebuilt the New York Knicks into a winner.

Though the Rockets rarely took advantage of his defensive specialties, a series of trade-deadline related deals this season has brought Jeffries back to New York once again.

As he joins a Knicks squad that only features two players with whom he played with in his first three-plus seasons donning orange and blue (Toney Douglas and Renaldo Balkman), Jeffries has, nonetheless, picked up right where he left off.

He is perhaps even more crucial to this Knicks squad, as this year’s team is packed with offensive options and will need to execute effectively on defense as they propel towards the playoffs (a direction of which Jeffries’ old Knicks teams knew nothing about).

Defense is Jeffries’ game. The Knicks really view his lengthy 6’11" frame as a huge asset, as he is tall enough, yet quick enough, to guard a variety of opposing players not matter the position. He is a smart defender who can stay on his man during a little one-on-one matchup, yet still be able to swarm an opponent as part of a double-team. His long arms prove to be key when swatting away shots or poking the ball away from a ball-handler.

These skills may seem like basic ones to a casual NBA fan, but any hardcore Knicks fan knows how sorely needed Jeffries’ intensity is to the team he has returned to.

Jeffries’ effectiveness is perhaps most magnified by his ability to take charges, drawing offensive fouls. According to ESPN’s John Hollinger, despite having his playing time decrease significantly after being traded to the Rockets last season, Jeffries still led the league in charges taken with 62.

Already, Jeffries has made his presence felt with the Knicks once again, getting in the way of defenders to draw a handful of charges in just his first three games. Playing in his first three games in over a month, Jeffries has also averaged 1.3 steals and 4.3 rebounds in nearly 26 minutes.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that numbers do not do justice to the importance of Jeffries to the Knicks. He is the type of guy who can anchor a defense, especially one that has shown a desperate need for direction. As a defensive specialist, Jeffries is the perfect player to start next to the likes of Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, with the Knicks also lacking additional size up front.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but in the case of the Knicks with Jeffries, they just may have hit the lottery. He may not be very best defender in the league, but he is incredibly effective in multiple situations. Those same types of “situations” are in fact those in which the Knicks seem to currently still be struggling, so it appears an opportune time for the two parties to join forces once again.

Besides—Jeffries is now donning number nine in honor of his former Wizards teammate, the great Michael Jordan (as per his Olympic number). What could possibly go wrong?

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