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Dubious history

Knicks repeat others mistakes with James contract

Posted: Thursday January 5, 2006 6:30PM; Updated: Friday January 6, 2006 6:32PM
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Averaging less than 11 minutes a game this season, Jerome James has spent a lot more time stretching than playing for the Knicks.
Averaging less than 11 minutes a game this season, Jerome James has spent a lot more time stretching than playing for the Knicks.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
Et tu, Penny?
James wasn't the only Knick to jump ship this week.

After being inactive for all but four games this season, Penny Hardaway left the team to return to Houston in an attempt to work out quadriceps injuries in both legs. Hardaway's departure likely spells an end to his career in New York, as his $15.8 million salary comes off the books after the season.

At 34 Hardaway is a shell of the 20-point per game scorer he once was, but his versatility (he can play both guard positions and small forward) should earn him a roster spot somewhere else next season. Hardaway has mentioned a return to Orlando, where he played six seasons. Houston, Phoenix and Charlotte also could give him a look, provided he can prove his legs are healthy.

-- C.M.

Sometimes people make bad choices. Winston Churchill invading Turkey at Gallipoli in World War I is a good example. Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of the Germans in World War II is another. You can also count ...OK,OK, I'll stop picking on the English.

But you get the idea. Mistakes happen -- especially in sports.

In 1996 the Seattle SuperSonics, desperately in need of a shot-blocking presence in the middle, signed Jim McIlvaine to a $33.6 million contract. Big Mac never averaged more than 3.8 points per game in two seasons with the Sonics.

In 2002 the Texas Rangers decided the solution to their pitching woes was the right arm of Chan Ho Park, so they rewarded the three-time double-digit loser with a five-year, $65 million deal. The Rangers are still paying the San Diego Padres for taking that boondoggle off their hands.

Decisions like these are baffling because you have to wonder who sits in a room and decides an unathletic, offensively defective center is worth the cost of a small Lear jet? Or who forgot to mention that flyball pitchers tend to have more success within the friendly confines of Dodger Stadium than they would inside Arlington? If Park ever pitches in Fenway, his ERA might equal his age. The one thing you can count on with mistakes -- of all sorts -- is that they are destined to be repeated.

Enter the New York Knicks. After witnessing the rapid aging of Dikembe Mutombo and extracting a physical beating on an undersized Kurt Thomas in the pivot for two season, team president Isiah Thomas began what he believed was an exhaustive search for a new Knicks center. And who did he settle on? Jerome James. The same Jerome James who was suspended this week by the team for his lackadaisical practice habits.

James was a mistake before he ever took the court at Madison Square Garden. The day the Knicks announced his signing, they were universally panned by executives, experts, journalists -- really anyone with a voice box. James was a chronic underachiever who cashed in on a brief moment of excellence. After averaging a lackluster 4.9 points per game with Seattle in the '04-05 regular season, James showed flashes of brilliance in the Sonics brief playoff run, posting 12.5 points and 6.8 rebounds while showcasing an array of post moves, albeit most of them against undersized Sacramento in the first round. The pending result: "Big Snacks," as he was known in Seattle, got a fat new contract.