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View Full Version : El Jeffe, an Ode to Jeff Foster



Heisenberg
04-09-2011, 04:01 AM
This is from Ian Levy over at Indy Cornrows (http://www.indycornrows.com/2011/4/8/2098769/an-ode-to-jeff-foster-el-jeffe#comments) and his personal blog Hickory High (http://hickory-high.com/2011/04/08/el-jeffe/).


The Pacers have locked up a playoff spot with three games remaining in the regular season. Besides working out some kinks before a matchup with the Bulls, there is another huge story line for the team over their final three contests. They may be the last three regular season games for Jeff Foster (http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/f/fosteje01.html). Heís finishing his 12th season in the NBA, all with the Pacers. Foster is 4th in Pacersí history in games played, trailing only Vern Fleming, Rik Smits and Reggie Miller. Only Smits and Dale Davis (http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/d/davisda01.html) have more rebounds in a Pacersí uniform.

Foster hasnít publicly discussed his plans after this season, possibly one of the reasons there hasnít been much attention paid, even among the Pacersí faithful. Foster is an unrestricted free-agent after this season and there has been talk of him joining the teamís front office. I donít want to be premature and Iím certainly not trying to shove him out the door. However, I donít want the ambiguity of his future plans and the impending lockout to prevent him from receiving recognition for what heís accomplished. If he decides to continue his playing career, Iíll happily re-post this again in the future.

Iíve heard announcers, from an opponentís broadcast team, call Jeff Foster (http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/f/fosteje01.html) one of the all-time great rebounders on more than one occasion. Mentioned casually, and without context, Iím sure that sounds ludicrous to fans who havenít followed the Pacers closely over the last decade. In a factual sense, there is nothing ludicrous about that statement whatsoever.
Throughout his career, some of Fosterís value has been obscured by his specialized role off the bench, and the average fanís reliance on per game statistics. Averaging just 20.7 minutes per game across his career, those numbers wonít do justice to his impact on each individual possession. Foster has never averaged fewer than 10.0 rebounds per 36 minutes for a full season, and his career average sits at 12.0. Heís never averaged fewer than 4.2 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes for a full season, and his career average sits at 4.8.

Of players whoíve played more than 10,000 minutes, over at least 400 games, Jeff Foster (http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/f/fosteje01.html) has the 10th best TRB% (http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/psl_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=1&per_minute_base=36&type=advanced&lg_id=NBA&is_playoffs=N&year_min=&year_max=&franch_id=&season_start=1&season_end=-1&age_min=0&age_max=99&height_min=0&height_max=99&birth_country_is=Y&birth_country=&is_active=&is_hof=&pos=&qual=&c1stat=g&c1comp=gt&c1val=400&c2stat=mp&c2comp=gt&c2val=10000&c3stat=&c3comp=gt&c3val=&c4stat=&c4comp=gt&c4val=&c5stat=&c5comp=gt&c6mult=1.0&c6stat=&order_by=trb_pct). Thatís not just among active players, thatís all-time. He ranks ahead of Tim Duncan (http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/d/duncati01.html), Charles Barkley, Robert Parish, Shaquille OíNeal (http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/o/onealsh01.html), Kevin Willis (http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/w/willike02.html), Charles Oakley, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Dave Cowens. If you follow that link, and re-sort the list by ORB%, youíll find Foster at 5th, trailing only Dennis Rodman, Moses Malone, Larry Smith and Chris Dudley.

I started writing this piece after looking at Fosterís place in Basketball-Referenceís Elo Player Ratings (http://www.basketball-reference.com/friv/ratings.cgi). The Elo Ratings are project, which allows fans to help create an ordered list of the greatest players of all-time. The ratings include anyone who has scored at least 10,000 points, grabbed 5,000 rebounds, handed out 2,500 assists OR garnered 1,000 combined steals and blocks. Foster is included for his career rebound total. The system randomly generates matchups between two players, with the fan voting on who was better, based on whatever criteria they choose. This process, repeated many, many times, is used to assign a relative rating to each player.

The ratings change constantly, but over the last two days I never found Foster ranked higher than 479th. That has Foster ranked behind players like Brendan Haywood (http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/h/haywobr01.html), Tony Battie (http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/b/battito01.html), Charlie Ward, Antonio Daniels (http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/d/daniean01.html), Rafer Alston (http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/a/alstora01.html), Bo Outlaw (http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/o/outlabo01.html) and Lindsey Hunter (http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/h/hunteli01.html). With all due respect to those players, I think thatís a severe underestimation of Fosterís value. Each of those players may have provided a greater variety of contributions to their team, but none had an elite skill at the level of Fosterís rebounding.

In addition to his rebounding numbers, Foster was an excellent defender. He didnít generate many steals or blocks, but he moved his feet, contested shots and always seemed to make the proper rotation. He was the consummate role player. Foster provided an elite skill, concentrated on what he did best and took almost nothing off the table. Fosterís accomplishments arenít a reflection of his natural abilities, as much as his commitment to effort, conditioning, activity level and force of will. Every minute he was on the floor he put his body between his man and the basket. Its the most basic of basketball concepts, but sometimes the simplest things make the largest difference.

The Pacersí made the Finals in his rookie season and have seen a somewhat steady decline in playoff participation ever since. Itís a cruel twist of fate to reach the pinnacle of team success just once, in your first season. Foster has never complained, even when his teammates were flailing at fans in Detroit, asking for time off to finish their rap albums and discharging handguns outside of strip clubs. With this newest crop of teammates, heís become the elder statesman, leading by example and exerting maximum effort in every opportunity on the floor.

Foster wonít ever be included in the Hall of Fame. His retirement, whenever it should come, will likely go unnoticed by fans around the league. I wish there was a place where he could receive the recognition he deserves. In the end, that place may have to be the memories of the players who competed with and against him, and the fans who watched him play. Many players in NBA history have more impressive statistical resumes. Few have done such a splendid job of making the most of their abilities. The Pacersí marketing department choose ďPassion, Pride, PacersĒ to promote this yearís team. I canít imagine anyone doing a better job of representing those three words than Jeff Foster (http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/f/fosteje01.html).

Of all the potential offseason moves we may/may not make this summer, I feel like Jeff's future's been lost in the shuffle along with a bit of complacency. He's always been underrated but I never felt like he was among our own fanbase, until this season. Limited minutes and offensive contributions and all, should Jeff retire I feel like we'd be pretty hard up to "replace" him. He's Chris Kramer at Purdue like where you don't really realize what you've got 'til it's gone (think Kramer's not checking Joey Rodriguez?).

I understand our franchise has a pretty high standard towards retiring numbers, and rightfully so, but I can honestly say I'd have no problem hanging up #10.

spazzxb
04-09-2011, 05:41 AM
Great article and sentiment. There are a few here who don't give him any respect, however I expect, much like I do with Bird, if he wants to be here next season he will. I don't see Foster jumping ship and he has at times (when Roy was struggling) still been the best center on the team. This is the healthiest he has been in years and I would not be surprised to see him stick around next season. Honestly, I don't think we make the playoffs this year without him.

owl
04-09-2011, 08:53 AM
I tip my hat to Jeff. He rebounds like I want a big to rebound and that is like throwing a bone to hungry dog. Rodman told Faried to go after every rebound like it is yours. That
is what you need in a rebounder. If Jeffs back can handle it and he wants to he needs to come back to the Pacers even if it is for spot play.

ensergio
04-09-2011, 09:06 AM
Foster has been the ultimate team player. That's all.

Pacerized
04-09-2011, 09:11 AM
I see no reason to not bring Foster back for a 2 year contract if he still wants to play, and he's no meantion of retiring to this point. I would hope we can sign him to for something like 3 mil per season. We won't find a better backup veteran center for that kind of money. I still hope we can sign or trade for an impact big man who can play the 4/5. Foster could still get his 15-20 minutes in that rotation.

beast23
04-09-2011, 09:43 AM
Foster has always been a favorite of mine. Just looking at some of the discussion regarding Foster here on the forum, I think that support for Foster has always been about 50-50.

Many of us have always respected the abilities he has and have always provided supporting comments for him against the naysayers. But some of the comments over the past 3-4 years have been wicked. He's done, put a fork in him. He'll never be more than he is (right now), trade him for whatever we can get. He doesn't fit into the future of the team and its direction.

That last comment has always lost me. Since when doesn't an excellent rebounder and defender not fit into the future of a team, especially when we've never put together a frontcourt depth that contained 4 players that would deserve to get minutes over him?

Foster has been healthier this season than either of his last couple of years. But his back, knee and hip still give him problems from time to time. I personally see him leaning towards retirement than returning. But none of us really knows.

I'll hate it when he does choose to retire... for a couple of reasons. This team will have lost a veteran who, despite how he feels on any given night, goes out and sets the example by playing through whatever pains he has and absolutely busts his butt for every rebound, every loose ball and every defensive possession. How do you replace that? And secondly, and maybe even more important for me, we will have lost our last link to some of my favorite Pacers teams.

1984
04-09-2011, 10:00 AM
This is from Ian Levy over at Indy Cornrows (http://www.indycornrows.com/2011/4/8/2098769/an-ode-to-jeff-foster-el-jeffe#comments) and his personal blog Hickory High (http://hickory-high.com/2011/04/08/el-jeffe/).


Of all the potential offseason moves we may/may not make this summer, I feel like Jeff's future's been lost in the shuffle along with a bit of complacency. He's always been underrated but I never felt like he was among our own fanbase, until this season. Limited minutes and offensive contributions and all, should Jeff retire I feel like we'd be pretty hard up to "replace" him. He's Chris Kramer at Purdue like where you don't really realize what you've got 'til it's gone (think Kramer's not checking Joey Rodriguez?).

I'd have no problem hanging up #10.

#45

Scot Pollard
04-09-2011, 11:00 AM
im going to miss jeff after this season

i think hes going to hang it up after this season

you can tell hes just not comfortable playing anymore between his back bothering him and he cant sit on the bench for a while

i think its good for his health to call it a career once his contract expires so he wont be committed to another team having to deal with his back again

imawhat
04-09-2011, 11:46 AM
I have more respect for Jeff than any current Pacer.

The guy has sacrificed his long-term health for this team. He's been in clear pain for at least three seasons, but he still goes out there, dives on the floor, and holds off guys that have 30-50 lbs. on him.

I thought he was finished not because of his skill/effort, but because he struggles to run. He's had 10+ years of guarding guys he shouldn't have guarded.

In any case, I think he's been one of the team's MVPs this season. He still fills a void and he's very consistent.

neosmndrew
04-09-2011, 12:19 PM
I really hope Jeff stays on the team for the next 3 years (maybe something like 2 or 3 mil a year over 2 or 3 years) just because he is such a nice veteran leader. He is the closest thing to a locker room leader that this team has, and a playoff contender really needs one to get deep into the postseason.

Pacers4Life
04-09-2011, 12:32 PM
Jeff foster is the epitome of I expect out of "Indiana Basketball"... Would you ever think he was what they call a 'talented' player? I still remember that air ball for the loss vs the Lakers many years ago..

But he out works and out hustles his opponents every night and does the little things needed to make a difference:

takes charges, ALWAYS feasting on rebounds, doesn't slack it on the defensive (in fact I'm pretty sure he steps it UP on D), he chirps at the officials in a very amusing/nonthreatening kind of way but he gets a point across so no one else has to try, he also has no problem saying something to ANY of the players including Danny when they aren't doing something well.

He's a coaches dream and a players best friend. To Jeff Foster, my second favorite Pacer of all time.

Hicks
04-09-2011, 01:27 PM
I'd certainly welcome him re-signing to a lesser deal. I'd still look to acquire a young center, though.

idioteque
04-09-2011, 02:19 PM
I like Foster and hope he finishes his career here now. I would have preferred to trade him a couple of years ago, but now that he's still here, he might as well finish here. I do think we need a younger center and need to move him to third string at the end of the year, however.

There is no way the Pacers retire his number though. I think you retire Smits, Jackson, and Dale Davis if you're going to retire Foster's number. Some will argue Foster over Jackson and Davis since they played for other teams, but I don't think anyone could argue Foster over Smits.

Although Foster won't get his number retired, he'll be in that second tier of incredibly high thought of players in Pacers lore such as Smits, Jackson, and the Davis boys of the 90's. He's the one guy we have now who personifies what those 90's teams were all about, even if he never played on them. He's almost like the Pacers last link to those good times, and it will suck when he's gone.

BringJackBack
04-09-2011, 02:29 PM
I'd certainly welcome him re-signing to a lesser deal. I'd still look to acquire a young center, though.

Do you think that guy could be Stanko? :shrug:

KingGeorge
04-09-2011, 05:08 PM
We need more Jeff Foster like players on this team.

He is a true team player and his work ethic exceeds many NBA players by a mile.

He doesn't worry about his stats at the end of the night, but rather if his team is on the winning side.

Another reason we all love this guy is because of his loyalty. He could have asked to be traded or go to another team during this rebuilding process, but he stayed and helped the team.

Pacer fans will hate to see you go Jeff, but we will support you in whatever decision you make.

Cheers to Jeff Foster, one of the greats! :buddies:

Peck
04-09-2011, 05:24 PM
Jeff Foster as an older player has become the player I always wanted him to be. I wish Jeff were about 3-4 years younger so that we could move forward with him as Roy's backup & I still would be good with using him for next season at the right price. But the reality of age & a back injury are going to come sooner rather than later.

He has been a very good big brother to several of the young pacers front line players & a very good solid citizen his entire career here.

No way should his number ever be retired but he certainly should always be remembered a solid player during a very turbulent time.

The Jackson shimmy
04-09-2011, 06:40 PM
Is it possible that Foster's presence as the 'veteran leader' of the squad
stands in the way of someone else on the team stepping into (or in
Jeff's absence, being forced to step into) that role ?

BillS
04-09-2011, 07:06 PM
Is it possible that Foster's presence as the 'veteran leader' of the squad
stands in the way of someone else on the team stepping into (or in
Jeff's absence, being forced to step into) that role ?

You can't possibly be saying that having a veteran as the veteran leader is stifling the growth of the young guys...

...can you????

The Jackson shimmy
04-09-2011, 07:33 PM
BillS-

I simply posed a question. Based on your reply, I'll put you down
as a 'no'.

Pacersalltheway10
04-09-2011, 08:41 PM
Do you think that guy could be Stanko? :shrug:

YES GiVE ME SOME STANKO!!!!

joeyd
04-10-2011, 01:40 AM
Thanks for posting this Heisenberg. I had not seen it before. Foster is a family favorite of ours, and I have been not only following his progress this season, but also enjoying watching every nuance of his game when he is in. I've resisted posting an "Ode to Foster" myself because there will be too many people to point out that he missed an opportunity to keep Bogut from scoring at the buzzer at Milwaukee, or criticize an easy shot that he might miss from under the basket. Funny how there is often a double standard that people have but won't admit to.

Fact of the matter is that on a per-minute basis, in most statistical categories, Jeff is meeting or exceeding the numbers he posted when he was younger and healthier. Like Peck, I wish he was a few years younger so he could play a few more years into the future. But in Jeff's case, the numbers seem to indicate that if he is healthy, he can contribute at a high level at least for another year, maybe more.

Amazingly, he currently ranks 5th in rebounds per 48 minutes, in the entire NBA. That he is an older player coming off major back surgery makes this even more impressive.

I remember that I once asked Mackey Rose why he didn't give Foster any love. He said that Jeff had been a "good soldier," but that Jeff didn't fit in the team's future plans, and that was the reason why he disliked him. The prevailing sentiment from others was that other players should get his minutes. Well, I firmly agree that we would not have made the playoffs without Jeff. He was the anchor of the Goon Squad, and helped to reverse many first quarter deficits this season. Just look at his stats on a game by game basis and one would realize that on a per minute basis, he has been just as effective as Roy on the boards, maybe more so on the ORBs, and in several games, Jeff outscores Roy.

Jeff has said to me in a few meet-n-greets that he has no interest in coaching. I could see him entertaining a business position in the organization. However, he also has said that if his play has not declined and if he feels good, then he would like to continue playing a couple of years. So it comes down to how well he feels and whether he is willing to sacrifice his body during another grueling season or two.

Personally, I think that making the playoffs has rekindled his optimism. However, I will watch the next few games as I usually have, appreciating the little things that the guy does to help the team succeed and that have helped the Pacers get back to the next level.

joeyd
04-11-2011, 12:09 PM
I'm bumping this.

If the Knicks game was really Foster's final regular season home game, then 7 rebounds in 14 minutes of playing time isn't a bad way to go out.

Kid Minneapolis
04-11-2011, 12:22 PM
Oh ya, always loved Foster. He makes championship-level contributions in a role player role. He just never played for a championship-level team except his first year. SA has always wanted his services (I'm actually surprised he never ended up there). I think the teams who know what they're doing all appreciate Foster.

Ya his offense has left wonting sometimes (I'll never forget this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnboXiq33os)), but his rebounding, screening, defense is just invaluable. His work on the offensive boards is a thing of beauty. His bat-back maneuver on offensive rebounds seems to have spawned a whole movement in the NBA.

He's been the ultimate professional, statesman, and player. Never a negative peep out of him, he just goes to work.

He still looks almost identical to his rookie year, the dude is in phenomenal shape for having played 12 years.

I understand if he's having back issues or he just wants a break, but I'd love to have him around for a few more years.

BRushWithDeath
04-11-2011, 12:22 PM
I understand our franchise has a pretty high standard towards retiring numbers, and rightfully so, but I can honestly say I'd have no problem hanging up #10.

Jeff's had a great career. Far better than anyone could have expected coming out of Southwest Texas State.

Jeff's had a great season. Far better than anyone could have expected coming back from his continually balky back.

But a player, no matter how much you think he's meant to a franchise, cannot have his jersey retired when his very best statistical season amounted to 7.0 pts, 9.0 rebounds, and 0.2 blocks in 26 minutes per game.

He has not improved one iota since he came into the league. While it may speak well to his longevity that his numbers are the same his second year in the league as they were his eleventh it doesn't speak well to anything else.

He is what he is. A solid NBA big who has been good enough to make a lot of money over an extended career. The only difference between Jeff Foster and legions of other guys is that he happened to have his long career in one city.

joeyd
04-12-2011, 01:14 AM
But a player, no matter how much you think he's meant to a franchise, cannot have his jersey retired when his very best statistical season amounted to 7.0 pts, 9.0 rebounds, and 0.2 blocks in 26 minutes per game.

He has not improved one iota since he came into the league. While it may speak well to his longevity that his numbers are the same his second year in the league as they were his eleventh it doesn't speak well to anything else.

He is what he is. A solid NBA big who has been good enough to make a lot of money over an extended career. The only difference between Jeff Foster and legions of other guys is that he happened to have his long career in one city.

It amazes me that there are always folks who buck against the intention of a thread when that intention is pretty obvious. It also amazes me that people will state things as fact without consulting or fully appreciating the stats.

No one ever said in this thread that Jeff should have his jersey retired. Someone mentioned that he would not have a problem with it. There's a difference.

Hasn't improved one iota since he came into the league? Well, let's not even get into the intangibles that one cannot apply statistics to, and the value that brings to the team. Let's just look at the major categories. Doesn't take too much effort to realize that Jeff became a premiere offensive rebounder, and his assists also increased.

Just like legions of other guys? I suppose they rank in the top 5 of all NBA rebounders per 48 minutes at the ripe old age of 34! If you look at Jeff's career and extrapolate on a per 48 minute basis, Foster would be just about averaging a double-double over his career. Again, extrapolating and comparing to Dale Davis' playing time and Jeff matches him in many categories. Better than Dale? Not the issue. But your statements are off base.

This board succeeds because contrasting points of view are welcome and encouraged. I'm not saying that everyone will disagree with where you think Foster ranks in the franchise's history, but then again, the original poster created this as more of a tribute thread. Would be nice if people could honor the intention of Heisenberg's thread.

DaveP63
04-12-2011, 08:27 AM
The organization decides if his jersey gets retired. Not us. If they decide they want to, I've got ZERO issue with it. I don't give a **** what his stats are.

Unclebuck
04-12-2011, 09:05 AM
I've been a huge fan of Jeff's for several years, I mean several years.

You know back when he was not such a fan favorite.

You know back when a lot of you complained about him missing layups.

You know back when you complained that his rebounds were, I forget, either lucky or not very important.

You know back when you complained that he was all finesse.

You know back when you complained that his rebounding numbers were inflated because he missed so many layups he was getting multiple rebounds on one play.

You know back when every year most of you wanted someone else to start besides Jeff and yet usually by Christmas jeff was the starter once again.

You know back when it seemed to me very few appreciated just how good of a defender he was.

You know back when he was the only big guy who blocked out.

You know back when his quick feet and quick hands were not appreciated.

You know back when it seemed very few appreciated that he had some real skill - the skill to play hard all the time a skill very few NBA players have.

joeyd
04-12-2011, 03:52 PM
Well done, Uncle Buck.

CableKC
04-12-2011, 04:01 PM
I'd be perfectly okay with re-signing Foster to fill the roll that Solo fills right now...basically a Big Man that can be brought in when Hibbert, whoever our new Starting PF is, Hansbrough and whoever out backup Center is ( the current role that Foster fills ) gets into foul trouble or helps provide some frontcourt depth due to injury. I love what he brings...but it would seem that if he is too truly be truly effective...he's probably destined to play a consistent 10-15 mpg at his current age. I love the guy, but his body simply is no longer built to withstand the rigors of a huge # of minutes over the course of a season.