NEW YORK -- Many Knicks fans don't go to Jared, but not as in diamond shopping; as in they don't like what Jared Jeffries offers. But Mike D'Antoni and his staff saw enough in the 6-11 interchangeable forward-center from last season to want to bring him back at the veteran's minimum of $1.4 million.
While Jeffries can't officially re-sign until Friday, when the free-agency period is slated to start, he was at the Knicks' training center on Wednesday, along with Carmelo Anthony, Toney Douglas, Landry Fields, Andy Rautins, Iman Shumpert and Josh Harrellson. In addition to shooting around and lifting weights, Jeffries had a physical done in preparation for his return to the team -- the only one that was on his radar for the upcoming season.
"I didn't want to be anywhere else. I didn't want to go anywhere else," Jeffries said. "This is where I wanted to be. I think we have a chance to have a very good team this year."
While the fans' last memory of Jeffries was his layup rejected by Kevin Garnett in the final seconds of Game 2, as the Celtics went on to sweep the Knicks in the 2011 playoffs, the coaching staff must value the plus side -- literally -- that Jeffries delivers to the team.
Last season, Jeffries' numbers proved he was effective on the floor, especially while playing alongside Amare Stoudemire, albeit in only about 250 minutes of action. On an individual basis, Jeffries was plus-87 points (in comparison, Ronny Turiaf was minus-11 and Shelden Williams was minus-29), and ranking the Knicks' power forward-center combos, Jeffries-Stoudemire was the best at plus-62. In comparison to Turiaf, who started most of the time at center, when Jeffries was on the court the team played more efficiently, and Stoudemire shot a higher percentage.
That positive feeling Jeffries got from his sideline bosses encouraged him to don the blue and orange once again.
"That's why I came back here," he said. "I think confidence in this league is the most important thing. You have to have confidence from the coaching staff and from your teammates, in order to build that up in yourself that you're a good player."
During the offseason, while enjoying time with his wife, Jenny, and young daughter, Evangeline, Jeffries visited the Impact Basketball facility in Sarasota, Fla. four days a week, under the leadership of top NBA skills development coach Joe Abunassar. He also entered the 11th year working out with his personal trainer, Jason Riley, who boasts Derek Jeter and Ryan Howard as his premier clients. Jeffries said his focus was to maintain his weight level and also reclaim his "offensive groove," as he calls it, that he felt he found two years ago in 2010, before he was traded from New York to Houston The first-round playoff sweep stung him even more and added motivation.
"For me, personally, I think that you want to come back and don't want to leave that mark -- what you've done here in New York and what you are here in New York," Jeffries said. "So me, personally, I want to have an impact and be in a situation to help this team win basketball games. As a team, we know that we're way better than what we showed in that series [against Boston]."
Even though the NBA has a shortened training camp, Jeffries says that everyone did a really good job of staying in shape and he expects Melo, Amare and Chauncey Billups to play off each other better this season. Jeffries said he's going to continue to help the Big Three space the floor so they can be in the right spots to take their hot-zone shots. That was the main reason Jeffries' plus-minus was so strong last season. Most importantly, as the fans, players and even the coaching staff can all agree on -- confirmed by the team hiring Mike Woodson as an assistant-- it all comes down to D.
"Defense is an effort level that you have to give, and if you give that effort level consistently you could be a good defensive team," said Jeffries, who is prepared to guard the two through five positions this season. "We have the right pieces; we have the guys do it. It's just giving a constant effort to be able to succeed there."
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