The Knicks played a terrific all around game last night in New Orleans and a lot of the guys played exceedingly well. Duhon, Lee, Al, Gallo, Hughes and Chandler are all playing some pretty nifty basketball. Good for them. But I think we fans need to start wrapping our heads around a strange reality that Mike D’Antoni has known about for a while: the Knicks don’t knock the Hornets off in their own gym without Jared Jeffries.
It’s true. At this point I think it’s undeniable. The Knicks simply do not hold down Chris Paul on his own floor unless Jeffries (a team-leading +28, by the way) is there to keep him out of the paint. They don’t stomp the Blazers without Jeffries. They don’t come from behind in New Jersey without him. And they certainly don’t run the Suns out of the gym without JJ continually harassing Steve Nash.
A lot of the Knicks’ recent success can be attributed to all the guys doing their respective jobs much better. Duhon is finally coming around and playing some very heady basketball. Harrington is playing a much more complete game in recent days. Chandler is looking more and more like the guy we saw last year. And Gallinari is finally asserting himself at both ends all the time.
All of that is allowing Jeffries to show, once and for all, his substantial value as a consummate role player. Whether it’s his heady rotations, weakside blocks and charges, offensive boardwork or, most importantly, harrassment of the other team’s best offensive player (regardless of position), Jeffries’ contributions are making the rest of team’s improvement translate into wins.
Now, if you’re rolling your eyes thinking that this pro-Jeffries’ missive is going to conclude with me suggesting that the Knicks should hold onto him, 2010 be damned, well…it’s not. Because that’s insane. Lebron and 2010 are paramount so I’d never suggest that the Knicks should hold onto Jared if some team made an offer that cleared an additional $7 million for this summer. That’s shortsighted and foolhardy.
The longer this run of great play goes on, the more likely the Knicks are to receive a palatable offer for Jeffries from a bonafide contender. And when that happens, as we’ve said here before ad nauseum, the Knicks should take it and never look back.
But since the inception of this blog, Dan and I have been hypercritical of Jeffries’ play during his Knick tenure (deservedly so, I might add). So fair is fair. We crushed him when he was terrible. Now that he’s shown himself to be a lynchpin to the team’s hopes for success this season, respect will be paid.
And here’s one more thing I think Knicks fans should wrap their heads around: If and when the Knicks do ship Jeffries out of town, any chance they have of making the playoffs this season is probably walking out the door with him.
Hard to believe. But true.