And why shouldn't he?
The man is undoubtedly living up to his end of a 5 year, $30 million deal. Just check the numbers per 40 minutes: 32 points and 24 rebounds. This space rarely ever contains references to PER -- because it's my preference to have a more concrete understanding of any statistics I use, and I'm still working my way through a full understanding of the metric -- but given that the highest possible total on John Hollinger's scale is something in the vicinity of 30, one would have to presume that big JJ's 46.17 PER can only help his case as a stud center extraordinaire.
Given only those stats, perhaps the following comments to the Seattle Times would appear almost reasonable:
"I'm hoping that either they use me or move me," James said. "I love Zeke [Thomas]. Zeke is by far my favorite coach. I had a great relationship with [Nate McMillan]. He's a great guy, but as far as relating to a guy, Zeke is by far my favorite coach. So I don't even want to go to him with this right now. I'm not trying to disrupt the team"
Reasonable indeed, for a dude whose numbers easily surpass those of any other center in the league. That is, until one considers both the origins of those statistics and the comments made by James.
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Those great per 40 stats? As James partially acknowledged with a further "I know I've been injured" remark, they might have something to do with the fact that he has played a total of five minutes of basketball this season spread over the course of two games, going for averages of 2.0 points and 1.5 rebounds per game. For all the excellently researched studies done to demonstrate that per minute production remains constant with minutes increases, even the world's foremost stat-heads have qualifying limits, thus making James's 32, 24 and 46.17 figures rather obsolete.
Since it seems that he phrased his commentary in enough of a genteel manner such that he might hope that it isn't called a demand, it is worth noting here that Jerome's "trade intimations" really border on the absurd. This is a guy who has been an epic bust since the moment he arrived in New York in the fall of 2005. Coming off a decent season for the Sonics in which he averaged only 4.9 points and 3.0 boards a game but did so in an average of 16.6 minutes (11.9 and 7.2 per 40 respectively) and had a couple of good games in the playoffs, he received a contract that could only have been based on expected improvement in actualized production with greater minutes and then did everything possible not to earn those minutes.
James came to camp out of shape. He committed horrendous fouls. He warred with teammates in practice, including a memorable incident in which reports had the 7-foot James being restrained by one teammate while it took three to keep the diminutive Nate Robinson from going to town on him. He produced zip on offense and couldn't move enough to get the job done on defense. Getting along with Larry Brown was a no-go, and most of the time, so was hustling.
It didn't take long for James to find his way onto the inactive list during Brown's tenure, and though he gained some spot minutes last year, the problems remained largely the same. He was a turnover machine and remained in terrible physical shape, which wasn't helped by an assortment of injuries incurred over the past two and a half seasons.
Earlier this season, during a pregame shoot-around at the Garden, I had the distinct pleasure of watching this guy getting worked out by the Knicks' assistants, in a vain attempt to get him back into game shape. The drill was simple: Take a shot from the right corner, jog to the right elbow, take another shot from there, jog to the opposite foul line, turn around and jog back to the original right corner, repeat. By the end of two trips through this rotation, James was soaked in sweat and clearly laboring up and down the floor. The shooting wasn't particularly pretty either.
Long story short, Jerome James is an out-of-shape big man who can't shoot or dish, rebounds decently and doesn't do much else well. One palatable season and a decent playoff series or two got him a huge pay day based on his size and potential, and it has since become evident that the 32-year-old 285-pounder is not going to become a big-deal professional ball player anytime soon.
Yet not only has this gentleman not been content to make upwards of $5 million per year to do nothing, and not only has he intimated that he wants out of New York, but he has gone so far as to play the "I don't want to be a distraction" card while being exactly that. The classic "I don't want to bring this to the coach, so I'll say it to the press" approach rears its ugly head once more. Wonderful, Jerome.
Just in case that wasn't enough, the trade demand might not have been the best of JJ's material for the day, this time regarding his time spent in Seattle:
"A lot of those guys need to thank me for that. I did the dirty work for those guys. I kept them clean. Nobody messed with them and everybody knew not to mess with them because then you'd have to answer to me. I'm not saying Ray [Allen] and Rashard [Lewis] and those guys owe me any money or anything like that, but they should say thank you."
Well, Jerome James is absolutely right about that much. With $30 million to be in his pocket by the end of 2011, and with a health status and playing ability that makes it highly unlikely that just about any team in the league would be willing to take his contract, it is safe to say that none of the legitimately established studs in this league owe him coin of any sort.
You worked hard for 16.6 minutes per game in 2004-05, Jerome. No questions. But that's it. You did a small part for a successful regular season team that ran into plenty of trouble against a better team in the playoffs. Given the level of effort and production attained since that time (which, oddly enough, coincided with the big pay day; how rare it is for a player to lose some motivation after that), it might not hurt to give the super-duper bravado a rest.