I grew up in Seattle, where the weather is almost uniformly cloudy for 9 months a year. But every August, the sun comes out and all of a sudden it’s 80 degrees and there’s no humidity and there are trees everywhere and mountains and lakes and it is beautiful. So, if you’re there as a tourist, you go “God damn! This place is awesome! Let’s move here!” A month later, the cloudy curtain drops and sticks around through June. And the newbies cry. August in Seattle is Sucker Month.
In the NBA, it’s May. Every year, without fail, some yayhoo (yes, two y’s) plays significantly better in a series or two and then is richly rewarded in the off-season by some idiot GM. Because GMs are too stupid to realize that years of performance are more telling than a hot two-week run. Every year, one lucky player will receive the coveted Jerome James Memorial Award for his Sucker Month performance.
Ah, Jerome James. After failing to crack the mythical 6.0 ppg barrier in his five year NBA career, JJ’s fat ass had a few big games for my beloved Sonics in the playoffs against the Spurs. In the off-season, JJ got paid for that one series, despite being objectively terrible in every other measurable period for his career. Now, astute observers might just chalk it up to TUMDOKAIT (The UnMitigated Disaster Otherwise Known As Isiah Thomas. Pronounce it like you’re an angry sumo wrestler). But this is not a one-time thing. Antonio Daniels did it. Tim Thomas did too in 2001. Feel free to add your own example in the comments below.
So, who’s my predicted winner of the 2009 “JJ”? Not coincidentally, it’s JJ Reddick, just nudging out Big Baby Glenn Davis (though the Luis Scolla love-fest is coming on strong). Due to injuries for Orlando, JJ’s getting actual minutes against the Celtics, and having a few big plays here and there. You can almost hear the GMs talking themselves into it: “Gosh, we could get him cheap since he’s a backup that Van Gundy clearly hates on a personal level. And wow, can he shoot. He’s like Ray Allen! Just think how we could spread the floor with him, opening up the lane for our slashers and freeing our bigs from double teams. He’s the perfect fit.” (Admit it, you are starting to think it’s not a bad idea for your team. It’s ok. Highly paid professionals let it happen to themselves, too). The only knock on JJ for the JJ is he’s not in a free agent year like many past JJ winners, thus unable to leverage the Award into a franchise-crippling contract. But when you’re a bad GM, you can always overpay in draft picks, not just with outlandish free agent contracts. So if JJ nails a few catch-and-shoots this series, he’ll lock it up.
And whom do I predict as next year’s big winner in the JJ sweepstakes? That’s right, it’s your Phoenix Suns. JJ’s got the total Suns package for a shooting guard: lights out shooter, sweet faux hawk, non-threatening white boy good looks. (Admit it, Thunder Dan would have rocked a faux in ’92 if given the chance). Also, JJ couldn’t guard the chair that couldn’t guard Chairman Yi, so he fits right in next to Nash.
Check back for the final 2009 JJ Award prediction after the Finals wrap up, currently estimated for sometime mid-September.