Kris Humphries was probably a bad husband. I’ve seen enough of Kourtney & Kim Take New York to know that even if his lines of dialogue were completely scripted, he more than likely wasn’t the best equipped to handle the celebrity of Kim Kardashian. He’s a little too – how do you say it? – not Reggie Bush.
Kris Humphries, barring some unforeseen leap in talent, will never be a “superstar” on or off the basketball court. A dominant rebounder, yes. As much fun to boo as LeBron James? Looks like it. But an athletic scorer who fans pay tickets to see? Not at all. As an NBA player, Humphries isn’t marquee, he isn’t someone you build your team around, and anyone who expects that out of him is going to be seriously disappointed.
Yet, no one seems to mention the steal the Nets got when they signed Humphries. At $8 million, the case could be made that Humphries was not only the best value on the free agent market, but was the best possible power forward for the Nets during the shortened offseason – a free agency most considered another failed attempt to put together a super-team in Newark.
Let’s take a look at the other two big men the Nets could have paid upwards of $60 million dollars to last month: Tyson Chandler and Nene. The 29-year-old Chandler, in a statistical setting, has put up similar rebounding and a few less points-per-game numbers as Kris Humphries. Chandler was someone the Nets were very high on in the offseason, but were not willing to match the 4-year $58 million dollar contract he signed to join the Knicks. Why? Because while he’s known primarily for defense, his offensive production is minimal. A 10-10 big man for the Knicks now, with offensive production just as consistent – if not less consistent – for an extra 6 and a half million per year through 2015? I’ll pass.
During the offseason, Chandler supporters argued that the Nets had no one who played hard on defense, so adding #6 would have been huge for the Nets front court on that side of the ball. The Knicks, a team with two superstars and equally bad defense, instead added Chandler. What has his defensive play gotten them? A 8-13 record and a game and a half lead over Deron Williams and Kris Humphries’ New Jersey Nets. One player’s defensive ability doesn’t mean a team is suddenly good defensively.
While the Knicks have undoubtedly improved in that area, posting a top-10 defensive rating in the NBA this season, it’s showing now that one guy’s hard play hasn’t translated into a strong, early start for the Knicks as they still rank in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference.
The New York Knicks were advertising a “Big 3” with Carmelo, Stoudemire and Chandler. Even with my anti-Knicks bias, I scoffed at that title. It seemed ridiculous to think that Tyson Chandler was in the same league as Melo or Stat. A quarter of the way into the season, Chandler has shown flashes of what an aging center on bad knees can do, and I think I’ll stick with the $8 million man.
Then there’s Nene. Back in early December, the Nets allegedly offered Nene over $60 million dollars, a number so outrageous it reminded me of the killer Elton Brand contract. What does Nene do that makes him worth that much money? Efficient, yes, but he’s a career 12-7 29-year-old who’s never made an All-Star team and isn’t known for his defense. This deal makes a little more sense for Denver, given that Nene has established himself with the fanbase, played hard, and kept a starting job. I get why Denver would want him back.
But if they had signed him to the money he wanted? Would the New Jersey Nets be any better with him over Humphries? I’d argue we’d be in a much worse situation.
Right now, the Nets rank 22nd in the league in rebounding, and that’s with a dominating rebounding presence in Humphries, who posted a 19 board game this season. He has been an absolute hustler playing in a soft Nets frontcourt. He’s the only controlling rebounder on the team. Given Humphries’ consistent play this season, added in with the eventual return of Brook Lopez, who followed up his “lazy” play comments with 20 rebounds in two preseason games, will just allow this play under the basket to increase in efficiency. A motivated Lopez playing next to a lights-out rebounder in Humphries will increase his production. If the Nets went with Nene, the result would likely be much more clumsy.
After a quarter’s worth of a season, the Nets made the right choice sticking with Kris Humphries. He’s a player who wants to be here and has performed well. I’m curious to see how his development continues over the season, but for now, Humphries has been playing great, physical basketball that commands attention.