Fare Thee Well, Jerome James

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The NBA’s trade deadline was today at 3 p.m., and the Knicks made a couple of minor moves, acquiring Chris Wilcox from the Thunder and Larry Hughes from the Bulls. None of the players involved have contracts that extend beyond 2010 — meaning they won’t affect the Summer of LeBron — but the Hughes trade is of note because it spells the end of the Jerome James era in New York. You’d be forgiven for not being familiar with James’s body of work as a Knick, mostly because he’s played a grand total of four games in the past two seasons.

Isiah Thomas’s curious decision to sign James in 2005 to a five-year, $30 million contract stands out even among the litany of curious Isiah Thomas decisions. Unlike fellow benchwarmers Stephon Marbury (a star just past his prime when he became a Knick) or Eddy Curry (a promising young player who never panned out), James was never terribly good, landing his contract pretty much solely as a result of a strong, out-of-nowhere performance in a playoff series while with the Sonics the previous season. So despite never averaging more than six points per game — and once being so down on his luck that he briefly played for the Harlem Globetrotters — Isiah snatched him up.

James, of course, has since become something of a running joke, a mainstay on the bench thanks to an impressive mix of injuries and the realization by current coach Mike D’Antoni that he wasn’t any good. (The Knicks tried, unsuccessfully, to convince him to retire last summer.) Yet James remained well liked by teammates thanks to a jolly demeanor, probably maintained because even he knew that he was essentially stealing Jim Dolan’s money. (His popularity is explained in this perfectly titled Times article, “Jerome James Has a Seat Reserved on the Knicks’ Bench.”) So good luck to you, Jerome. We hope the bench in Chicago is as warm as the one at the Garden.

Bulls trade Hughes to Knicks for Thomas, James [Chicago Sun-TImes]