The first time I saw Chris Copeland in person was in the Garden locker room after the Knicks 12/2/2012 game against the Suns. Copeland got dressed with hardly anyone around him. To the reporters, he might as well have been a ball-boy or janitor. When he finished, he donned his princess backpack, a sign that he was being hazed by the team, and walked out the door.
What stuck in my mind was not that an N.B.A. player went unmolested in a room full of scribes, but rather it was that backpack. There were a number of princesses on the bag, and I had a moment of pride knowing I could name all of them. I didn’t see many Disney movies as a child, and a number of royals had been created after my youth had passed.
Knowing the names of the Disney princesses is a skill I only learned a few years ago, and if I didn’t have my own children, I probably would be unaware of such a fact. It’s not that people don’t have the capacity to recall names of cartoon characters. However sometimes people need exposure to showcase such a skill.
The same could be said of Chris Copeland.
Chris Copeland started off his professional career in the D-Leagues, and followed that up with a couple of seasons in Europe. By the time I saw him that December, he had not seen much action for the Knicks. Against Phoenix that night, he only managed nine and a half minutes of court time. Few people thought he was worth much. The next day I penned a small piece for the New York Times about Chris Copeland’s potential, but it fell on deaf ears. Only a few comments here at KnickerBlogger even mentioned Cope, all of which were derogatory:
“Copeland looked great in the first half yesterday, but I still think he’s about 14th on the depth chart if everyone is healthy.”
“You fella’s are all on tranquilizers! Copeland is slow can’t play defense too big and slow to play John Havlicek and too small and not strong enough to be Elvin Hayes.”
No one came to Copeland’s defense.
Two games later Copeland played 18 minutes against Cleveland, and the game after he managed 28 minutes of court action. Near the end of December he’d rack up 40 minutes in a loss against the Kings.
But Amar’e would cut into Copeland’s time, just as I had predicted in that early December article. Knick #1 came back in January, and the neophyte forward played sporadically until March, when Amar’e Stoudemire’s knee gave out. From that moment forward, Copeland was a main fixture with the team. Cope managed nearly 21 minutes per game from that point forward.
Copeland averaged an impressive 20.7 pts/36 with a ts% of 58.6% in that stretch. Take a look at the people 6-9 or taller who put up those kinds of numbers over the last 20 years. His group of comparable players is more grounded, but is still an impressive mix of borderline All Stars, starters, and 6th men.
Despite his strong play, Copeland was largely ignored in the playoffs. Coach Woodson managed to only find 10 minutes per match for his emerging forward, and in none of those did he manage more than 20. Cope only saw meaningful minutes when the Knicks were already in despair.
In a word, Copeland is a “scorer”. A third of his shots came from downtown, and another third from at the rim. Despite his size, he didn’t contribute much in terms of rebounding or defense. If you had to describe Copeland to a friend who just came out of a coma, you could use some of the names above: Harrington, Rice, Lewis, depending on how high your opinion is of him.
After signing with Indy this summer, Copeland joins the ranks of one-year wonders who left the Knicks for greener bank accounts. When Jeremy Lin and Shawne Williams escaped from New York, it appeared as if the team made a huge mistake. However in Lin’s case the Knicks found adequate replacements, and Shawne pretty much played himself out of the league last year. So you may snicker at my pessimistic view concerning Cope’s desertion, and you’d have history on your side.
On the other hand, Copeland’s similar players are far superior to Extra-E’s, a sign that the former was a much more productive player. Unless his shooting was a fluke, he’ll likely eek out a respectable career in the States. And unlike when Lin left, the Knicks may have trouble filling his role. Obviously Bargnani was brought in to take over as big-man “scorer”, but look at his comparable player list (below) & compare it to Copeland’s. Clearly the player the Knicks brought in (and paid for with money, players, and prospects) is inferior to the one that left.
Grades (5 point scale):
Performance/Expectations: 20 (as in points per 36 minutes)
Final Grade: B+