In the great Jiri vs. Ricky debate, Ricky seems to have the popular vote due to his explosiveness and his ability to light it up. Jiri sometimes gets pushed to the side because his skills are harder to define. He can score, but he seldom takes over a game. He can pass, but he’s not a point guard. He can defend, but he’s not a lock-down guy. I suppose the best description that I can think of for the guy is "teammate."
There are tons of clichés for these kinds of "glue guys." They "make everyone around them better." They "do all the little things that don’t show up in the stat books." But the bottom line is that they are just good teammates. Jiri seems to be one of these guys. The most recent example we’ve seen in Boston is Eric Williams. Those close to the team heaped praises on him that seemed disproportionate to his stats. The ECF team played over its head in part because of guys like him. The last few years he was starting to run out of gas and was overused by the coaching staff (in my humble opinion), but he was still a great teammate. Now Jiri plays a different position and isn’t a vocal leader like Eric was. However, he is young and improving every year.
Perhaps a better example would be the guy that he compares himself to: Brent Barry. Last year Barry and Welsch were called upon to play point guard for certain stretches in order to compensate for a lack of depth at the position. Both have great range, but can drive to the hoop as well. Jiri actually might be a better team defense player than Barry already (but Brent will learn quick in San Antonio). On the other hand, if Danny had such a high opinion of Jiri, why would he have tried so hard to aquire Brent around the trade deadline? Isn't that a duplication of talent? I think that Danny really likes Jiri, but as the Marcus Banks trade/no-trade taught us, loyalty does not prevent Danny from making a move he thinks will benefit the team.
Jiri’s productivity waned towards the end of last year, but a hurt thumb and the rookie wall (he didn’t play much his rookie season) could explain some of that away. Besides, like I mentioned before, his value can’t always be measured with individual stats.
So where does Jiri belong in the lineup? Last year he started over Ricky in part because he was familiar with the rotations and the coaching staff was familiar with him. It will be interesting to see if Ricky (various reports tell of him working out like a man on a mission) can win the job from him outright. Personally I think that is the best case. Jiri seems like the kind of guy that would be a most valuable 6th man. He has skills (like the deep shot) that can be called upon depending on the situation. Plus, you don’t have to worry about losing much with him in the second unit. He’s solid, he’s dependable, he’s safe.
That pretty much sums up the Ricky/Jiri debate for me. Jiri won’t lose the game for you but Ricky just might win the game for you. You need both kinds of guys. Having guys like Jiri make it much easier to have guys like Ricky.
Of course if Tony Allen’s summer league play spills over into the regular season, then all bets are off. In that situation, someone would become underutilized and (possibly) shopped on the open market. But that’s another story for another time.
Update: At least on columnist thinks that Jiri's Boston days are numbered.