Earlier today, the Knicks announced the signing of Jerome James, and I’m not exactly sure how I feel about the deal. It’s like watching a dramatic movie. If the ending is happy, you rail against it because they took the easy way out. If the movie ends tragically, you’re upset that things didn’t end up the way you optimistically hoped.
The first thing Knicks fans are going to wonder is what James will bring to New York this year? He’ll give the Knicks their first defensive minded center under the age of 50 since Marcus Camby. Opposing guards who get past Crawford and Marbury will have to watch themselves in the paint, because Jerome blocks a shot just about every full quarter he plays. In fact over the last 4 years, James is 6th in blocks per minute. When he decides to shoot the ball, he’s a decent offensive player. His career FG% is 49%, and his free throw percentage has improved every year of his career to a passable 72% last year. James’ rebounding has slipped, but that could be due to playing next to Dangie Fortvans.
However there is a dark side to Jerome James’ game. The FAMU alumnus has three huge weaknesses that will drive Metropolitans nuts. First is that he’s turnover prone. Since James’ never played in high school, his basketball IQ is somewhere around Forrest Gump’s. Second is James’ propensity to foul. Again looking over the last 4 years, James has led the league in fouls per minutes. The last thing that will turn the fans against James is his weak work ethic. The laziness tag is something that has followed him since college.
You don’t need a crystal ball to see what’s going to happen. One cold day in New York, Jerome James is going to turn the ball over, and then head to the bench with two quick fouls. The opposing team is going to have a double digit lead by the time the Knicks center checks back in. James is going to turn the ball over twice more, on the last one he’ll loaf back on defense getting there in time only to inbound the ball after another score. And that’s going to be the end of the love affair between Jerome James and the New York fans. You have to remember that this is the city that openly booed Patrick Ewing near the end of his career (something I’ll never understand).
New York will see the duality of Jerome James. Some days will be like the fantastic playoff series he had last year & others will be like the scenario above. On one hand New York desperately needs a center, but on the other James is more apt to be a backup than a starter. While $6M a year is reasonable for a player of his caliber, 5 years at the age of 30 doesn’t exactly fit in with Isiah’s rebuilding creed. Although signing James will allow Sweetney to move back to PF and flourish at his natural position, did we pay too much for such a flawed player?
As I said before I?m not sure what to think about this deal. I?m not crazy about James, but there are some things about his game that I like. Of course with his foul problems, I?m not even sure that James can average more than 25 minutes a night. But I feel more comfortable going into this season with him, than have to rely only on an unproven Frye every night. Finally I have to wonder, if Jerome James couldn?t get significant minutes on the Sonics, a defensively starved team, how much can he help the Knicks? We’ll have to wait until the season starts to see how this turns out.