Within seconds after the Knicks’ 96-93 Game 2 loss to the Celtics, the mock headline had populated the interwebs like a nasty (and hilarious!) case of crabs. After a 42 point, 17 rebound detonation as blistering as it was heroic, Carmelo Anthony chose to punctuate his transcendent performance by…. deferring to Jared Jeffries on the last possession.
If it weren’t for the pterodactylite reflexes of Kevin Garnett, Jeffries, Bill Walker (the intended recipient of Jared’s dish), and Melo would’ve all been heroes. The series tied at a game apiece, the Knicks — who played much of that game without Amar’e Stoudemire, and all of it without quad-hobbled Chauncey Billups — fly home that night under far different stars, and with far rosier prospects for the subsequent home stand. Instead, with their best punches mere grazes, the Bockers would take the best of Boston’s haymakers on their own court, bowing out in four games.
“THEY WENT TO JARED!?!?!?”
Looking back, the sentiment of that night exemplified the strange relationship the man they call “Jeffrightened” has enjoyed with the Knick faithful over the years (well, “enjoyed” probably isn’t the right word).
He first arrived in August of 2006, after New York’s qualifying offer to Jeffries (the $5.2 million mid-level exception, or about 800% of his actual value) went unmatched by his previous employer, the Washington Wizards (this would be track #15 on Isiah’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 3). Over the next three and a half seasons, Jeffries averaged 7.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per 36 minutes, with a TS% of 48%. Which, let’s face it, is just awful. Still, he was able to forge a sort of sporadically unique niche as a versatile defender capable of pestering everyone from Rajon Rondo to Dwight Howard. Albeit in bite-sized spurts.
Jeffries’ sincere-yet-clumsy play epitomized the teams of that woeful era — arguably the worst in franchise history. But unlike most of the 280 guys he’d call teammates over that stretch, Jeffries was present for most of the really, really bad years. As such, he had to endure first-hand what few players festering on terrible teams ever have to endure: capacity crowds almost every night. For that and that alone, he deserved — and still deserves — our respect.
On February 18, 2010, Jeffries became one of the sacrificial lambs set atop the altar of LeBron — for whom the Knicks had to clear roughly a debt ceiling’s worth of cap space to even have a chance at landing — having been shipped along with recent lottery pick Jordan Hill to the Rockets. In return, the Knicks got back a waning Tracy McGrady (more importantly, Tracy McGrady’s ever-waxing expiring contract) from the Rockets, along with Sacramento’s Sergio “Spanish Chocolate” Rodriguez. LeBron never arrived, and neither McGrady nor Rodriguez were resigned. Meanwhile, Jared Jeffries would spend the next 12 months doing little more than languishing on the end of Houston’s bench.
Then, like a wayward gull long-marooned by gales beyond his control, Jared Jeffries suddenly found himself spirited back to Manhattan’s shores. In the wake of February’s Melo-drama, the Knicks were desperately depleted, particularly on the front line. With few other options short of the D-League (and we know how enthused Walsh and D’Antoni have been about beating those bushes), the Bocker front office turned to a familiar, perpetually tear-bound face. Shortly after accepting a buyout from the Rockets, Jared Jeffries rejoined his former team, adding a serviceable though thoroughly rusted cog to a machine few were sure would even run smoothly.
Not surprisingly, many met JJ’s arrival — and subsequent spotty play — the same way they would, like, actual seagulls on the street: with a cold cocktail of disgust, disdain, and derisive mockery (which this article in no way reflects). Fairly or unfairly, Jeffries symbolized the bad old days of bloated contracts and blind roster-building. Regardless, Jeffries did provide some quality defensive bursts off the bench, and even started a handful of games down the stretch. All the while, he managed to “stay in his lane,” as the kids like to say, and brought to a still fledgling squad a modicum of familiarity and stability down low that it desperately needed — albeit sporadically so. He also lead the entire team in +/- with a whopping +9.6. Which I’m sure is as amazing for you to read as it was for me to type.
In contrast to many of the personnel moves the Knicks will have to make heading into next season, the fate of Jared Jeffries is, unfortunately, likely a foregone conclusion: With more options at the center position, chances are we’ve seen the last of the former Hoosier in the orange and blue. Could he still eke out a roster spot? If neither Josh Harrellson nor Jerome Jordan pan out (i.e. show up to camp unable to see their own toes), it’s conceivable. Barring that, Jeffries’ is simply far too limited to be even a marginal option for a team which, unlike last spring, shouldn’t have to worry about filling out its roster with emergency stopgaps.
Assuming #9 has indeed seen his last burn at the World’s Greatest, let us consider an epitaph:
He couldn’t shoot. He couldn’t really jump. Oftentimes, he’d react to an arriving pass as if it were a ball of spent uranium that’d been shot out of a canon. Incredibly, his free throw shooting has fallen 227 percentage points since college. His pick-and-rolls were easier to hedge than Fannie Mae, and his presence on the block exhibited all the speed, force, and grace of a beached turtle at low tide.
But no one could say he wasn’t loyal. Even after it was announced he was destined for the sweet, smoggy vistas of Houston, Jeffries — by all accounts a classy guy and solid teammate wherever he’s been — remained gracious. A year later, when the Knicks came calling, he picked up before the first ring even ended. He showed up. And, well, he showed up. Even if he’s not a part of this team’s grand plan going forward, let’s hope he can at least take some success-imparted solace in that one true canto threading past Knick teams godly and godawful alike: Once a Knick, Always a Knick.
Report Card (5 point scale):
Final Grade: C-