Backup center Jared Jeffries, who's an unrestricted free agent this summer, wants to be a Knick next season.
"I love New York and this is the best experience of my life being here in the city, being a part of this team, especially this year going wire to wire through the playoffs," he said on ESPN New York 98.7 FM's "Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco" show on Friday afternoon. "Even though we didn't have the finish we would've liked, we went to the playoffs. This is an era in New York basketball where we've been to the playoffs two years in a row, and we can build on that. I think the key is to get there, get the experience, keep your core group of guys together and keep moving forward."
One of the most memorable postgame press conferences -- not just this season, but ever in sports -- was when Mike D'Antoni told fans who didn't appreciate Jared Jeffries to "re-examine their life."
After the Knicks beat the Jazz on Feb. 6, and Jeffries had 13 points and eight rebounds -- way above his season averages -- D'Antoni said: "Indulge me for one second. Anybody who boos Jared Jeffries has got to re-examine their life a little bit. I am sorry to have to say this. I love our fans. I like MSG, the arena. But here's a guy who came back to us, minimum contract -- he could have gone to a lot of other teams. He plays as hard as anybody could possibly ever play, with injuries, everything you ask him [to do].
"He takes every charge, every dirty play, every rebound. He works hard every second. And there are people that look at that and go, 'I think I'll boo him.' I have a hard time believing that. It's like, oh, he missed that [shot].' I understand the frustration. I understand that. But you boo what is good about America? To me it's like, are you kidding me? Are you serious? To me, that's not good. I love him anyway."
There's no question Jeffries helped the team -- he was one of the league leaders in charges drawn -- but right knee issues forced him to miss 27 games and play limited minutes towards the end of the season (around 10). While the Knicks should want to retain Jeffries, they'll definitely have to monitor his health this offseason. Because the team will likely only have the veteran's minimum ($1.4 million) to spend on a backup center, four other options could include unrestricted free agents Marcus Camby, Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin, who the Knicks were interested in February when he arrived back from playing in China.
But if and when Jeffries eventually sits down with GM Glen Grunwald to discuss a contract, he has his pitch ready to go.
"I think that a lot of times whenever you look at the team that wins, you have people that fill roles," he said. "I don't think you can look at scoring, look at guys that are in the media a lot and draw attention for personal accolades. Those don't always equal out to wins. I think that when I'm on the court and when I play well, my actions on the court equal out to wins."
Here are seven other interesting insights from Jeffries:
On the Knicks' No. 1 priority in the offseason: "I think if we can find a young, athletic three that can come in and kind of give [Carmelo Anthony] a break. I think this year, we relied so much on Melo at our three position that if we can get a young, athletic three that can come in and give us some scoring, but also a lot of defense, that will be big for us. ... I feel like because Melo is so versatile, he can move to the four some. So if Amare [Stoudemire] does get tired, Melo can move to that position. But I feel like if Melo moves to the four, we had to go really small at our three. We go with Landry [Fields], we go with [Iman] Shumpert. If we can find somebody, like a Kawhi Leonard [of the Spurs], a knock-down 3-point shooter at the three that can also play defense for the right kind of price, because this year we have so little cap room, you bring him in. Now you can move Melo to the four and still big at three position."
On how Amare Stoudemire's injury unfolded: "Me and Josh Harrellson were in front of him walking in the locker room and I heard him hit the extinguisher casing. And I kind of turned around and looked, and didn't see anything. I knew we were all frustrated at the loss, so I kept walking to the locker room. And by Josh's expression, I turned around and looked, and Amare's hand was wide open with blood falling out of it. I've been hunting all over the world, I've gone fishing all over the world, so blood doesn't bother me that much. But just the amount of blood coming out on a human, especially on one of my teammates, seeing it almost made me feel sick because I knew it was very serious. ... We were in disbelief because anyone that saw it, we knew it was serious. It wasn't one of those injuries where you cut it, a couple of stitches or they put a towel on it and it's OK."
On the aftermath of STAT's injury: "You feel bad because it's heat of the moment, it's frustration. We just lost two games in a row. We felt like we should've played a lot better as a team. It wasn't intentional, so you can't get mad at a guy like that. ... Seriously, once that happened, I said he's one of the toughest guys I've ever seen because the look on his face: he looked at his hand and looked up at me and it was like, 'Aw man, what did I do?' Not pain, not anything. It was just like, 'Do you see this?' I like walked away because I was about to get sick and Josh put a towel on it. He definitely didn't cry, he wasn't screaming. I was like, 'You've got to get that looked at.' ... I think that as a competitor and an offensive weapon, you always want more shots. He wants more shots. Miami, in my opinion, did a great job on him. They did a great job at limiting what he likes to do, which is getting to his right hand. But I don't think that there was any frustration with his shot selection or the shot differential. I think he was frustrated because he wanted to help the team more."
On the team's feelings after the Heat series ended: "We had been dominated by a playoff team that we felt like we had a good chance of taking to seven games, if not beat. That's your frustration. I'm sure you've been in situations where you think it's going to go this way. It's going to go according to this script, and if it goes totally different than what you expect, there's a level of frustration and you look for areas to blame. After we have a couple days to calm down, a couple weeks to calm down, we'll realize that the injuries we had took a toll on us -- not having our whole team together for a long stretch of this season, not being able to find a consistent rhythm, having to play different lineups every night. ... In my opinion, what really hurt us most this year is that we go through stretches with this lineup and then somebody would get hurt and then somebody would step up and do that. And it was inconsistent roles and inconsistent lineups during the course of the season that hurt us in the playoffs."
On how Melo and Amare can play better together: "We've got to have a point guard. I think that a point guard that demands the respect of both of them will do a lot better. I think you had some of that with Chauncey [Billups]. When Chauncey was here, he was able to get them in the right spots and able to kind of distribute shots for both of them. So I think the big key is for Jeremy to take the next step as a point guard. He has to command the ball, have control of the offense and get guys in the right spot."
On if Jeremy Lin has what it takes to play with Melo and Amare: "He doesn't have to yell at them and do that, but he has to do it through his play. Be confident. The biggest thing for a point guard is confidence. When you see Chris Paul out there playing, he's one of the most confident guys on the court. He's worked to that point. This was essentially Jeremy Lin's rookie year and he worked into a successful rookie year. He had an unfortunate injury. Next year, he can pick off where he left off. He can work his way to a comfort level. ... There are a lot of what if's in the world, but with Steve Nash, I don't feel like is going to come somewhere for the veteran's minimum. I have in full confidence in Jeremy [being the leader for this team] because a guy that plays as hard as he does, understands the game the way he does, you can't help but follow his example and he's going to help your team."
On whether or not Lin should've played in the playoffs: "If you go out there as a basketball player in the playoffs -- and I'm sure we all agree that the playoffs is a higher level of basketball; it is the highest level of basketball in the NBA consistently -- and to go out there at 85 percent isn't fair after not playing for a large portion at the end of the season. Even him going out there, it doesn't give us the kind of edge we needed to get over the hump."
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