No time for precision

This is possible the deadest quadrant of the entire NBA cycle, making it exceptionally difficult to blog with abandon. I'm also technically on vacation, which places at least a few ethical barriers in front of the usual FreeDarko activity. That said, I have been bugged for the past few days by something I heard on the radio before leaving, so much so that I put off heading to the airport so I could start a post on it.

I happened to be listening to Sporting News radio when word first came down that Isiah was pursuing Jared Jeffries. The Saturday shows are populated by the most generic, nasal quack at the beginning of each phrase wankers imaginable, so I wasn't expecting any in-depth analysis. I was a little astounded, though, to hear one of them absolutely assail Zeke for going after another SF. What's more, this king of the airwaves also took supreme issue with Jeffries's '05-06 averages, taking them as an indication of J Double's absolute worthlessness as a player.

My first draft went the way of the burning carpet because it went too far out of its way to praise Jeffries. The truth is, his postmodern dirty work isn't so deft that it can quietly make up for minor team deficiences (see Balkman, Renaldo). The Knicks probably could stand to overpay for someone like that, since being fucked capwise with an unlivable roster is a lot worse than being slightly more fucked with a mildly viable one. Jeffries, though, is not that guy; yes, he technically can guard three positions, handles and passes extremely well for his size, and doesn't mind relative anonymity. Yet as anyone who has followed the Wizards knows, his defense is hardly definitive, he's not a consistent rebounding presence, and he's capable of missing any shot known to man. I agree that he's the kind of presence Isiah (and the Wizards, apparently) want; he's just not particularly good at it.

But what prompted this in the first place, and what angered me so fully that it stuck with me for days, was the radio guy's stat-hawking. I will never understand how it is that ignorant-ass pundits supposedlt watch the game enough to discount Kobe or Iverson's scoring, but apparently haven't paid enough attention to understand what someone like Jeffries is all about. Either numbers don't tell the whole story or they do; it's especially galling that someone whose impact on a game supposedly works in terms of non-glory-seeking, the kind of player you'd think an anti-numbers fan would embrace, could be trashed in this manner. "Right way," or at least "non-selfish" player would be definition not show their accomplishmens in stats, since only a vainglorious ass would worry about his rote output. Apparently, though, with some people NBA'ers are damned if they produce, damned if they don't; I'm only guessing that these watchers watch games to deflate stats without thinking about how an athlete could bolster his rep through in-game subtleties.


At 7/31/2006 4:33 PM, Anonymous Ragtime said...

It is bandwagon now to criticize Isiah's every move, and at this point it comes a little bit late. The time for ranting was last July, before Jerome James, Eddy Curry, Steve Francis, Jalen Rose were added.

Those analysts that railed against Isiah at the beginning of last season were vindicated with the Knicks 23-59 record. But seeing the "Fire Zeke" movement grow legs, many reactionary critics crawled out from under some rock to join the IT-bashing party in NY.

I'm convinced that many sports commentators, out of laziness, look only at box scores before they cast judgement on players. This sounds like a case of the commentator criticizing Jefferies en route to showcasing Isiah's idiocy , rather than just singularly attacking Jared as a player(correct me if I am wrong).

Though Balkman was taken too high in the draft, and Jefferies might have been offered too much money (though at this point, who cares what Jim Dolan does with his money?) both these SF's fill a gaping hole in the Knick roster.

Nobody among Marbury, Francis, J. Rose, or Crawford can defend, David Lee is too big to stick with smaller SF's, and Q. Rich is a marginal defender hampered by back problems. The two SF pickup's aren't that bad. Yet until they win, IT and the Knicks will be maligned by every critic, no matter their basketball acumen, and maybe rightfully so.

At 7/31/2006 5:49 PM, Anonymous Aaron said...

The Knicks situation right now is so bad that the only solution I could come up with if I were the GM would be to put a hiring freeze on right now and wait until enough contracts expired to do something. The Steve Francis trade put this team into territory beyond dismantle and rebuild.

So from that perspective, the Jared Jeffries is a head-scratcher. Why add more salary? Any salary?

With that being said, you can't really criticize Isiah's decision too much. If he has a compulsion to make a stupid move, this is a pretty smart one to make.

WV: badrmg -->Baader-Meinhof Group

At 7/31/2006 8:44 PM, Anonymous Tinns said...

Yes. That's all correct. I'm certain that none of these wankers watch much basketball at all. I mean watch and think about and understand the game that's going on. They just talk about what's talked about ad infinitum ad nauseum.

At 8/01/2006 4:35 AM, Anonymous jack said...

New York is going to make the play-offs next season. Last season was a L. Brown inspired anomaly. Remember the season before that?

At 8/01/2006 10:38 AM, Blogger Jeff said...

Unfortunately, some basketball pundits, like those you mention in your post, give the whole practice of analysis a black eye. You should never have the quantitative without the qualitative. That said, unless Jeffries is leading the league in taking charges or setting textbook picks, his offensive contributions are going to show up in the boxscore. Even if he's an unselfish type, if he's any good, his stats should reflect it. Effective, unselfish players will not have a lot of points but they will compensate for this by shooting a very high percentage from the floor and the FT line, dish out a good amount of assists, all while keeping the turnovers to a minimum. Jeffries is a good passer, but his shooting is really poor for someone who takes almost all of their shots from 2-point range. Like I said, maybe he sets a lot of picks...

At 8/01/2006 12:59 PM, Blogger Gregg said...

Completely off topic, but whatever. Number of Free Darko shirts spotted this weekend at the Pitchfork music festival: 3.

I saw them all on Saturday, and yes, that was the day with Destroyer.

At 8/01/2006 2:17 PM, Blogger Joey said...

Long-time sufferer, first-time (in a while) caller here.

I am no fan of the Jeffries move. I agree that to diminish him to a level somewhere near "worthlessness" based upon statistics is foolish and more of the same banal, lazy punditry that passes for analysis in this reactionary media era of absent creativity. I'd also agree that JJ could add value to the Knicks were he actually the player he's reputed to be.

But as Shoals noted, his deficiencies are obvious--stats or no stats--and his rep as a potential Kevin Garnett Lite (tall, lanky, good perimeter skills) seems as though it owes almost entirely to JJ's lengthy body-shape-driven potential. People want Jeffries to be good because his frame and skills seem as though they should allow for it. Put him on the Knicks, they reason, and his mid-range jumper and deft ball handling will plug a hole on a team with lots of small shooters and undistinguished big men.

But that's a fantasy. Because Jeffries has not proven that he can reliably provide that which the Knicks would need. So why bother? John Wooden used to tell his players that it is folly to mistake activity for accomplishment, and that's really the epigraph that must hover above any account of Isiah's time in New York. He spins his wheels, holds press conferences, and ultimately accomplishes little. Acquiring JJ would be more of the same, as he would fail to fortify the defense, rebound consistently, and present a consistent threat.

And this is all before we get into the matter of his proposed contract. What has this guy done to demonstrate that he deserves Jerome James money? It may be market rate, but lots of people have made memorable choices that have smartly gone against the market. IT should look into it.

Ever since the end of Patrick Ewing's time, it has been painfully obvious to any real Knicks fan that the team must dispense with this quixotic, dream-the-impossible-dream air of exceptionalism and accept that rebuilding is a process that takes time and rewards those that properly invest in a strong foundation. This is something that Dolan and every suit in those nice suites has refused to acknowledge. Instead, the Knicks overpay to bring in failed experiments and mismatched parts, all the while indulging the obnoxious and counterproductive narcissism that in New York, it will work somehow. Well you know what? It won't; it hasn't; it doesn't.

There is a pernicious media-driven fallacy that New Yorkers won't suffer a losing season and that we Brickerbocker heads demand the playoffs, as though merely getting there is proof of legitimate title contention. I HATE this--that it exists and that even in sacrosanct precincts of sports journalism (*cough* PTI *cough*) it festers like an unavoidable black hole of the grotesque. Look where this group-think has gotten us: we can't sign real free agents, we don't win games, and we are a decade away from a title, if not more.

I wish that just one offseason, after yet another carnival of the absurd that ultimately resulted in failure, a Knicks executive would dispense with the vainglory and admit mortality: we need to start over.

I don't want to get into a torrent of told-you-so admonishments (all that money for Allan Houston?!) so let me just say this: were I the GM of the Knicks, I'd be giving away players. Do you want Stephon? Just give me Mo Williams and a draft pick. I'd blow the shit up and do what smart people do: I'd build through the draft and through strategic signings. I would eschew headlines for headway.

And I'd pray to God that Greg Oden were there when I was picking. Wait, I mean when the Bulls...oh, forget it.

At 8/01/2006 3:50 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

Let's not discount the notion that perhaps everyone in the NBA -- players, owners, executives, officials alike -- has comprimising photos of Isiah.

At 8/01/2006 9:10 PM, Anonymous db said...

who were the other teams courting jeffries?

from what i recall - and i'll have to check this - the short list includes phoenix, san antonio, and chicago. point being: it's really amazing what isiah thomas's involvement will do for the perception of personnel moves.

it's not a bad move; the money's not out of wack (not to sound condescending, but anyone arguing that isiah is bidding above market value really isn't paying attention). should it go through, my only concern would be for david lee, who i still hope will end up being our starting small forward .. although his true role may be backing up the 3 and 4 spots ....

At 8/01/2006 10:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to back up what Joey said, it wasn't that long ago that Dallas blew shit up...and they had a decent nucleus! Few short years later, couplea good drafts and some smart GM-ing later, and they're perennial hopefuls. Why? Because they had the stones to give away Kidd, Mashburn, and Jackson for pennies on the dollar.


At 8/02/2006 12:05 AM, Anonymous Aaron said...

Joey, blowing up this team won't work. It's past that point. Because you're right, if somebody would say "You want Stephon? Just give me Mo Peterson and a draft pick" it could happen. But to engineer trades like that for Starbury, Francis, and Crawford at the same time? There aren't enough teams in the league looking for players like that with big contracts.

I absolutely agree with you, though, that New York can tolerate a rebuilding process. But tolerate is a relative term. The fans would tolerate it, tickets would still get sold, but every day in the paper would be whiny, stupid sportswriters complaining, much like the one who put down Jeffries. They'd be the only ones complaining, and they'd only be complaining because they have to file some copy every day, but the back page of the Post is a pretty loud soapbox. If a team were to do it, the fans would understand, but the GM who did it would have to face an abusive press corps on a daily basis and would need the courage not to crack.

Shoals is right that there are too many morons in the media, and unfortunately they have way too much influence on the way business is run.

At 8/02/2006 12:23 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

aaron--silverbird and i were wondering when you would show up. . .to comment on the seeds of peace post

At 8/02/2006 12:59 AM, Anonymous db said...

about a few points:

-i know it's sacrelige to give up assets for nothing in the NBA, but aaron is right - there just aren't that many trade scenarios out there to 'fix' what's wrong with the knicks ... which really only comes down to a handful of players. it's looking like the better option might be to either buy out or 'tim thomas' a few guys instead. addition by subtraction.

-we shouldn't get rid of crawford. he was looking like a potential 6th man of the year last season and was absolutely instrumental in our win streak in january. he can be a player .. i predict his best year(s) will happen under isiah.

-we ARE rebuilding, and we're embracing the process. we sort of backed into it, but our veterans aren't good enough to carry the team to anything significant by themselves and we ended up with a young nucleus that the city has come to really love. the expectations aren't high - yet - and we all knew that here, but i think everyone really enjoyed seeing some young upstarts out there fighting for playing time and giving us hope that we might actually be able to have some homegrown talent leading this team in the future.

At 8/02/2006 2:25 AM, Blogger spinachdip said...


The Jerome James signing aside, I don't think any single Isiah Thomas move is particularly horrible, misguided as they may be. But it's the pattern and the context.

Yes, Jared Jeffries is a hot commodity in the market, but the teams you put in the shortlist are looking for the last piece in the puzzle. Knicks expect him to be more than that. If they can develop JJ into a poor man's KG, then bully to Isiah, but otherwise, he becomes just another player on the roster who's good enough to contribute but not good enough to change the course of the franchise.

And that's a mid-level exception wasted. Isiah didn't even need to use the whole mid-level to retain Jackie Butler, who was already a productive big man and could turn out to be a star that this team lacks. But because Curry and James somehow made Butler expendable, and because the mid-level was earmarked for Jeffries, Isiah lets a promising (and cheap!) young player go for nothing.

What can the Knicks do? At this point, they might as well trade what they can. Jalen and Mo Taylor expire in '07 and they might actually be useful for contenders. But most of the other bad contracts run to '09 and '10. The best course of action would be to just be patient and let them run out.

Which is what Isiah should have done with the contracts inherited. As bad as the Knicks' cap situation was when he came in, he would've been out of the woods by now if he hadn't taken on the millions-for-mediocrity strategy. The team's record would have been about the same, but future prospect would've been much, much brighter.

At 8/02/2006 1:27 PM, Blogger Joey said...

Count me among those who are disappointed that Butler is gone. I think that he might develop into a nice player.

Toyochin, I agree with your point about pattern and context. I think that most people would assess players like Steve Francis and Jalen Rose and deem them to be valuable to respective extents. You encounter problems when you already have Stephon and Crawford and Q and all that.

To get out of the woods, I would like the Knicks to move the expiring contracts for draft picks or cheap, young guys who might need some more time to develop. I was always shocked that the Hawks basically gave away Diaw because everything I read about him made me think that they were using him wrong and that he needed more structure. I am not gonna front like I knew he'd blow up, but there are plenty of dudes (like this website's patron saint) who need a chance to play without fear of benching. The Knicks already aren't contenders, so why not bring in talent, affordable guys and try to sort that out. Not only would it make the team younger (something Isiah has targeted as a goal and done alright with) and cheaper, but the strategy would also come with a built-in out for the club, since those initial contracts expire on a fixed, abbreviated schedule.

I agree that with Robinson, Frye, Lee, and even Crawford, who is still so young, the Knicks have theoretically begun to develop a new nucleus. However not only does it lack the look of a true contender-down-the-road, but it will also invariably get fucked up as Isiah pursues big contracts and older guys with stars in his eyes.

At 8/02/2006 1:40 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

can one of you knicks fans explain to me why isiah seems to only believe in the potential of players old enough that they should've shown something/turned a corner already, as opposed to being willing to invest much less money in long, athletic prospects who still realistically could mature?

At 8/02/2006 3:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh... that's pretty easy. He's the new coach, so he better win now or he's fired.

At 8/02/2006 6:24 PM, Blogger Joey said...

He watches a lot of afterschool specials?

At 8/03/2006 11:32 AM, Blogger Jeff said...

Would it be possible for the Knicks to trade someone like Marbury for some 2nd round scrub, convincing some other team to sign that scrub to a contract equal to Marbury's but lasting only one season? This would have th effect of creating an instant expiring contract in place of Marbury's old deal. Would another team go for this?


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