I sat with a friend at Madison Square Garden last night, and we did something pretty fun, which is to just pick one player to watch for a while.
We cycled through various players. One of them was Danilo Gallinari, who is going to be a tough cover for the next 20 years. He is so big and shoots so well. For a guy like that, athleticism is a nice-to-have. When the coast is clear to joke about Gilbert Arenas again, we should call him the Desert Eagle -- 'cause that's a ridiculously large gun.
But eventually we started watching Jared Jeffries. Once that started, I never did anything else. It was natural -- to watch Jeffries was to understand the Knicks' entire defense, and most of the Bobcats' offense.
Jeffries guarded various different Bobcats, but more than anything he was empowered to roam wherever the action was, and did. If the Bobcats were shooting, the uber-long Jeffries was there, annoying the shooter.
And he has a crazy knack for it. If the Bobcats missed, or turned it over, Jeffries always seemed to be there, sometimes even reaching all the way around his own teammates who had better position but were nonetheless less effective. It was almost comical how he starred in nearly every good thing New York did on defense, and made things very difficult for the Bobcats' offense, but almost never earned a statistic. 10 rebounds, six points, two blocks and a steal, isn't bad, but it's nothing compared to what he did. In fairness, you should probably triple his steal and block numbers.
Not to beat a dead horse, but if there's a case for plus/minus or some kinds of stats the measure defensive contributions, Jeffries is it. The boxscore said he was so-so. I say he was this game's clear MVP.
Next time you watch the Knicks, watch Jeffries. You'll see what I mean.