Today is Thanksgiving, and I don’t know how else to start this than by saying ‘I was wrong’. Or at least, that’s exactly how I should be starting this if we actually found out that the ‘good’ Elson that we’ve been seeing lately is the ‘real’ Elson; and that the ‘bad’ Elson is the one who doesn’t box out, and can’t catch a cold – let alone a pass – , is the anomaly. That said, I like what I see from the ancient journeyman. At best, the collective idea was that he was just good enough not to hurt your team when he was on the floor, but not nearly good enough to make a difference while we tread water waiting for Okur to get into the mix. I contest that the way he has been playing (and producing) of late elevates him from "just good enough not to hurt your team" to "damn good enough to help ANY team".
In the land before time . . .
When he was a young player spending a lot of bench time behind more expensive players on the Nuggets he was referred to as "Geico". He was, as those Nuggets put it, "insurance". That’s essentially what the Jazz were hoping to get from him as their former All-Star center would attempt to return from what used to be a career ending injury, and no other centers were on the roster during that part of the summer, except Kosta Koufos.
Right now we have three healthy centers, with one on the mend. There appears to be a legitimate numbers crunch in the paint for the first time in years, but there are question marks for each player. Al Jefferson is the slow and steady locomotive – but he’s just not there yet, especially on nights where his body language suggests that ‘he doesn’t think he can’. Mehmet Okur is, as I just mentioned, coming back from what used to be considered a career ending injury. Okur is a tough guy, but let’s keep in mind that this season his max ceiling is only going to be something he’ll surpass in training camp next season. Fesenko is Fesenko. He’s a big body and one of the few guys on the team who actually finishes around the basket with power – but right now he’s a one-way player (the opposite way that we've traditionally had trouble with). We used to suggest to Boozer that rebounds =/= defense. Fouls =/= defense either. This brings us to Elson. When he’s on his game it’s unfair to call him "insurance". Rather, I think the title of "assurance" is more apt.
This Dutch dilettante is the jack-of-all-trades / Gestalt center that mixes in a bit of all of the other guys. He can grab defensive rebounds and finish quickly in the paint like Al Jefferson. He can hit the midrange jumper to stretch the defense – but not quite as far as Okur can do. Francisco has also been money at the line so far this season. He’s also an average shot blocker and isn’t afraid to mix it up a bit, which is what Fesenko is sometimes. He’s not the best at any one thing, but Elson is a savvy vet who can look quite capable when the ball is bouncing his way – like it did last night when a few rebounds were tipped out to him, and even a Hornet save attempt went right in his lap.
He’s not a great passer, and more than I’d like to admit it, his hands appear to be at least partially made of stone. (Remember the Golden State Game where he got significant playing time, and the ball once bonked off of his head, out of bounds?) But for all of his faults (real or imagined), he’s making the most of his minutes right now. This Thanksgiving I’m thankful for Francisco Elson. I didn’t want to be, and I think that few people were most upset with his signing than I was. He’s doing okay out there right now. And if he keeps playing this way then we’ll all be thankful for that as the season goes on.