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Logjam At Center...In New York?

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July sure can be a nerve-wracking month to be a hoops fan.

Here I was thinking that the great nervousness was done for at least a moderately extended stretch when the Celtics pasted the Lakers back in mid-June, and less than a month later we're already entrenched in holding our breath as the team decides which players to pursue and which moves to make in defending its championship.  Corey Maggette, Mickael Pietrus and James Jones are already off the market.  The destinations of James Posey and Eddie House hang precariously in the balance.   Scary rumors are abounding of Darius Miles work-outs and Stephon Marbury wanting to come to town.  All sorts of other goofiness is happening across the league.  Whew.  It's been a blood pressure-raising (and quite exciting) start to the NBA's off-season.

The disclaimer is of course that no matter how crazy the next few weeks get, any complaining done here truly is tongue in cheek.  It really is so cool to even have a championship to worry about defending.

But with that said, I need a day just to laugh about the hoops world, and it's hard to imagine I'm alone in that pursuit.

Of course, being a native New Yorker, a basketball laugh usually doesn't require looking far these days.  Nor did it this morning.  The Knicks were called upon, and once more, they delivered.

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Apparently, the Knickerbockers have too much depth.

They've officially decided that they no longer believe in the old Isiah Thomas adage that "You can't have too many overpaid, under-performing, out-of-shape centers" and that one (Eddy Curry) will be sufficient.  So they're getting rid of Jerome James.   By "getting rid," I mean, "attempting to push him into retirement."

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reports:

The Knicks, according to a league source, are trying to convince James to retire based on his recent medical history, which includes left knee surgery last November. James appeared in just two games last season and sat out the final two months due to soreness in his right knee.

Of course, with $12.8 million on the table for the next two seasons, James has no plans of going anywhere, which makes the whole situation all the more enjoyable.  Isola reports that James is committed to playing to the point that he may attend voluntary veteran workouts this summer in Vegas.

So the Knicks are looking to dump a guy who simply tore up the league last season.  No, really, he did!  As I mentioned in some other JJ musing back in February, only a few elite players score above 30 on John Hollinger's PER scale each year.  James obliterated that when he checked in at 46.17, and he put up per 40 minutes averages of 32 points and 24 rebounds in 2007-08.  Can't help but admire that sort of production -- at least until one remembers that those numbers came from a total of five minutes played over two games last season, a sample size likely too small even for the most ardent of statheads.  So maybe not so much on the 'tearing up the league' motif after all.

Let's review: Knicks put together a group of big men who have garnered a reputation for being out-of-shape, over-paid, poor basketball players and lacking in the work ethic department.  Knicks gradually (how could it possibly have taken three years to reach this point?) grow tired of the problems -- awful front-court play, many losses -- that this presents.  Knicks realize that they have overpaid badly enough to the point that making a decent trade with certain players may not even be feasible.  Knicks resort to attempting to convince oft-injured, oversized back-up center to retire.  Back-up center decides to up his commitment level in order to make sure he can stick around long enough to both play a few minutes and collect his check from the team next season, thus ensuring his the team receives the full cap hit from his salary rather than any sort of medical exemption.  Knicks continue to try to shove him out door even though this renewed interest in playing may make him Knicks' most committed center.

Call me cruel, but it's hard not to get a kick out of that sequence of events.

The Knicks never cease to amaze -- or amuse -- me.  Here's to an exciting conclusion to the latest drama of the Sizable Apple.