What About Jerome Jordan?

Will Jared Jeffries' Return Fasten Jerome Jordan's Cheeks to the Bench?

If everything goes according to plan, the Knicks will have Jared Jeffries back on the active roster at some point this week. Knicks fans were reminded painfully that Jeffries is a limited player during Game 2 of the Boston series last year. However, a limited player is not necessarily a useless player. Jeffries can passably guard every position on the floor, which is a particularly useful skill on a Knicks team that occasionally seems pathologically committed to switching on ball screens. With the 6’11” Jeffries returning to the rotation, the Bockers’ front court rotation will consist of Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire, Jorts, and Jeffries, with Carmelo Anthony capable of playing the 4 in small ball lineups. The odd man out will be rookie center and former Serbian sensation Jerome Jordan,* which begs the question: what should the Knicks do with Jordan?

Jordan has picked up 4 DNP-CDs in 9 games so far this season and appears to be falling out of favor with Mike D’antoni, having logged only 7 minutes in New York’s last 5 games. Frankly, D’Antoni shouldn’t be blamed for his short leash with the rookie, as Jordan has looked utterly confounded in his limited minutes this season, losing his man on defense, rotating a step slow, and never seeming comfortable with his role on offense. Certainly, a lot of these issues can be chalked up to the cancellation of the summer league and the truncated training camp and preseason, but whatever the reason, Jordan needs some seasoning before he can be counted on to provide meaningful contributions to the Knicks this season.

If this were a normal season, I’d be apt to just let Jordan ride the pine, getting reps and guidance from veterans during practice. But with a compressed 66 game season and a Knicks roster chock full of old legs/backs/retinas that will probably need as much rest as possible on the infrequent off days, full-tilt practice time will be hard to come by. When the Knicks do practice, Jordan will be more likely to lock horns with Steve Novak than Tyson Chandler.

Wisely, the Knicks partnered with the Erie Bayhawks of the D-League this off-season, joining shrewdly operated organizations like the Spurs, Rockets, Thunder and Mavericks as NBA teams that have exclusive control over D-League franchises. The Knicks are already using Erie as a training ground of sorts, grooming potential future GM candidate Allan Houston by ceding him control of the Bayhawks this season. The Knicks would be wise to send Jordan to Erie where he could gain invaluable confidence and experience by playing major minutes against relatively high-level competition. The Rockets recently sent 2011 lottery pick Marcus Morris to their D-League team; instead of sitting on the bench, Morris is flourising in the D-League, averaging almost 30 points and 12 boards in 3 games so far.

If the Knicks’ front office felt it wise to make the investment in a D-League affiliate, they might as well put it to use. Jordan is likely to spend the foreseeable future alternating between street clothes and warm-ups, which will only serve to stunt his development. It is unlikely to hurt the Knicks in the short run to have the youngster off the roster, as they have sufficient emergency backup forwards in Steve Novak and Renaldo Balkman, in addition to the players discussed earlier (granted, they’d be going small). If the Knicks were legitimately worried that their lack of “true centers” will be exposed if Tyson Chandler continues to get himself in foul trouble, the Bockers could waive Jeremy Lin (who has neither present nor future value) and his non-guaranteed contract and sign a big man from a D-League roster for a few 10-day contracts to round out the squad.

The long-term dividends could be useful; in a league where teams are shelling out multi-million dollar contracts to DeSagna Diop ($7 million), Joel Anthony ($3.6 million), Johan Petro ($3.2 million), Hakim Warrick ($5.6 million), and Darko Milicic ($4.7 million), having a competent back up center who can protect the rim and play solid defense for under half a million dollars would be the type of roster construction coup the Knicks, who have committed enormous sums of money to their version of the Big 3, will need if they want to compete for titles. It will be interesting to see whether the Bockers take this approach or if they are stubbornly determined to show that their draft picks have been successful. Ideally, long-term foresight will win out over short-term obstinance and the Knicks will do what is best for both the player and team by sending Jordan to the D-League to hone his game. But if we’ve learned anything about the Knicks’ front office over the past decade, their decisions often fall desperately short of ideal.

*(I cannot tell you how difficult it is not to type Jerome James).

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One Response to What About Jerome Jordan?

  1. Pingback: D-League Showcase Recap « Knicks Bricks

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