Per 36 Minutes:
If you find yourself mired in the meat-market metrics of talent evaluation, be it in sport, business, entertainment, or whatever, it’s important not to confuse hype and myth. There’s a difference, you see. Hype is something narrowly transfixed on expected results; results which hindsight will one day render prophetic or foolish, depending on whom or what you believe.
So when the hype surrounding an NBA-bound player surpasses substance and numbers, a roll of the dice can easily stop snake eyes. But if it’s myth supplanting the stats, well, sometimes that can just be fun as hell.
Few players in recent Knick memory embodied this idea of myth-over-hype better and more instantaneously than Josh Harrellson. Snagged from New Orleans for a human leather satchel full of Dolan Dollars in the second round of last year’s draft, Jorts – if you don’t know the story behind this, just let yourself out – sparked a cultish blogosphere love-fest as instantaneous as it was unbecoming his marginal stock.
Define marginal, you say? Well, for starters, dude was whelped in Missouri, a state so nondescript it couldn’t even inspire a new name in this weirdly awesome map. He didn’t play organized basketball until his freshman year of high school; started off at Southwestern Illinois College, which shares a conference with Logan College of Chiropractic; transferred to Kentucky to become the whipping boy of a hot-seated Billy Gillespie; toiled on the bench behind the likes of DeMarcus Cousins and Daniel Orton; and only in his senior year – under the guiding reptilian claw of John Calipari – established himself as possessing anything resembling next-level ability.
What he brought in spades was a big body, serviceable post defense, and rebounding – three things the front court-thin Knicks desperately needed heading into an offseason of lockout-worsened uncertainty. That, and a slew of folksy anecdotes revealing a man whose camera instincts were as inexcusably bad as his mating ones were sharp.
Through the first 16 games of the season, all of that was on admirable – if not heavy – display, and it looked as though Jorts would eventually carve (probably shouldn’t use “carve”; it’ll get him excited) a nice little rotational niche in Mike D’Antoni’s notoriously fickle offense. Even his three point shooting – not exactly a hallmark of his in Lexington – made many forget the corner-camped days and baleful departure of one Shawne Williams.
Shortly after the team’s Judgment Day home loss to the Nuggets, it was announced – mere minutes after I and every other reporter on hand had seen seen him dressing, nonchalant and crowd-less, in the locker room – that Jorts would miss the subsequent four to six weeks with a right wrist injury. The following Monday, the Knicks put in a call to Erie, summoning Jerome Jordan and Jeremy Lin to help bolster a lineup now wafer thin in both health and confidence. A few weeks later, Linsansity would for a brief, mesmerizing spell make Knick Knation forget the very real promise Harrellson showed during his pre-injury stint.
His early March return, while welcome, had the misfortune of falling betwixt two, equally tide-turning epochs, with Mike D’Antoni’s sudden resignation a week later meaning yet another adjustment for a player seemingly weaned on uncertainty and chaos. Jorts would finish the year once again proving serviceable, if not as dynamic as he’d been during the season’s first days and weeks. The somewhat reliable corner three-ball was gone, even if the defense, rebounding, and sideline joviality remained.
Returning as he’ll be for year two of a rookie contract cheaper than a Bluegrass vacation, it’s safe to assume the Knicks will welcome Jorts back hardily when training camps open in September. Of course, as with any second year man with hopes of earning his future salt, Jorts has some things to work on, namely:
• Shooting from 5-9 feet
• Regaining his shooting touch and ability to spread the floor
• Lateral quickness
• Reducing daily intake of sodium and uncooked meat
• Sculpting facial hair that doesn’t included invitations to join Village People tribute bands
• Not referring to girls at the bar as “hush puppy”
• Limiting himself to $50 of Buck Hunter Pro a night, and getting some sleep
He sticks to those, mostly slanderous recommendations, he’ll be just fine. Not an All-Star. Not a starter. Heck, maybe not even a regular rotation player. But that’s the beauty of Nick Collison – a player after whom Jorts would be wise to mold himself – and other NBA niche artists: They thrive less on palpable progress than focused expertise. With the right focus, Jorts can be that guy for the Knicks.
Grades (5 point scale):
Final Grade: B-