Jamal Adams aftermath: Jets GM must avoid Porzingis 2.0 scenario
First, the good: The Jets did about as well as they could possibly have done Saturday, when they finally gave in to the reality of their present predicament and shipped disgruntled safety Jamal Adams (and a future fourth-round pick) to Seattle.
The Jets get two first-round picks, a third-rounder and safety Bradley McDougald, who presumably will replace Adams in the Jets’ defensive backfield. GM Joe Douglas, who vowed he wouldn’t trade Adams unless he was blown away, got a haul in return for a player who clearly didn’t want to be here. In his first turning-point moment, Douglas does well.
Century Link Field is 2,839 miles away from the Jets’ training facility in Florham Park. It is clear that by the time the deal went down, that was barely a far enough distance for both sides to retreat to neutral corners.
But Douglas’ job is only partially finished now. The hard part comes next. The hard part will be maximizing those picks — and the Seahawks, with Adams’ help, aren’t likely to make Douglas’ job easier in that regard by tanking their way into the draft’s top 10 in either 2021 or 2022. And it isn’t just helpful if he does well in those draft, it’s an imperative.
Otherwise, what the Jets did Saturday afternoon will be an almost note-for-note replay of what the Knicks did in the winter of 2018 with their version of Jamal Adams.
His name was Kristaps Porzingis.
On Jan. 31, 2019, after relations between team and player had reached an unbridgeable chasm, the Knicks dealt Porzingis to the Mavericks for, in essence, salary-cap room (with which they hoped to land a max free agent) and two No. 1 picks (which, similarly, are not likely to be all that choice given that Porzingis has already helped turn Dallas into a better team than they were before).
In both instances, young, impossible-to-replace talents had grown so disillusioned with dystopian cultures for two chronically losing teams that they didn’t just demand trades, they made it all-but-impossible for the teams to choose any other path. The only difference is that Porzingis was coming off a serious injury — though his performance this year (19.2 points and a career-high 9.7 rebound per game while serving as a terrific wingman for Luka Doncic) eased the worry of how he’d respond to his blown-out knee.
So within the space of 20 months two gifted kids at the top of their game — Adams is 24, already a two-time Pro Bowler and an All-Pro last year; Porzingis was 23, coming off his first All-Star season — have decided to force their way out of this town, out of New York City, a sporting city that is supposed to be a magnet for stars, not a repellant.
That’s how repugnant they found their futures if they stayed with the Knicks and the Jets. And, sure, it is easy to shake a crooked finger at kids today, and their impatient ways, and their impertinent attitudes; neither Porzingis nor Adams exactly covered themselves in glory on their way out the door. Porzingis heard about it when he returned to the Garden this season; the Jets won’t host Seattle until possibly 2024, but you can already predict what the narrative in the week leading up to their Dec. 13 game at CenturyLink will sound like.
But the fact is, winning in professional sports means finding ways to make your best players happy. It means acquiring players like Porzingis and Adams, not shedding them. The Knicks happy-spun their deal last January then promptly struck out in free agency last July, which was supposed to be half the benefit; it’s now on Leon Rose to optimize the other assets, those draft picks in 2021 and 2023.
Like Rose, Douglas isn’t responsible for the apocalyptic history that helped drive his players away. Adams might’ve tried to make Adam Gase sound like a cross between Michael Scott and Rich Kotitie on the sliding scale of bumbling bosses, but it was essentially the same game Porzingis played last year when he posted the video of himself running after David Fizdale insisted he hadn’t started running yet.
It was a vehicle to expedite what he wanted.
What both players wanted was something that ought to be unthinkable: They wanted out of New York, wanted out of a sporting city that can literally offer the world to its brightest lights and biggest stars. The Knicks and Jets ought to be destination spots. This isn’t Stillwater, Okla., after all. This isn’t Bismarck, N.D.
Maybe Douglas has the goods to make this trade seem like an even greater heist by the time he’s done working the ’22 draft. Like Leon Rose, maybe he can find a star or two, a player around whom you’re supposed to be able to build something. A guy like Kristaps Porzingis, perhaps. Or Jamal Adams.
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