Of all the bizarre sights in Nashville on Tuesday night (and there were many, ranging from Ashley arriving at halftime, Jared Carter finding his way into the game and Patrick Patterson being taken in and out for offense and defense with the Cats down a smooth 40), the picture of Jodie Meeks checking into the game with eight minutes to go may have been the oddest. Just like the awful San Diego game before it (where Gillispie insisted that he played Jodie Meeks when “he was available”), Meeks did not play when the game mattered and then found his way into the game after it had gotten a bit out of control. On Tuesday night out of control meant down 40 and Meeks’s presence made almost no difference in the final outcome. It was a bizarre moment in a season that has been an up and down roller coaster for the perimeter player with the most potential on the team.
You remember Jodie last year right? Burst on the scene against Louisville, hit big threes in all the important games and showcased an athleticism that had the NBA as a future destination. Now, the sight of Jodie limping may be the hardest thing to watch in a season that has been hard to watch all too often. There is not one game where Jodie does not spend at least part of the time hobbling and favoring one hip over the other. Jodie’s move from “play one game, sit out three” makes one wonder why he is back to begin with. At times he has been amazing, no more so than his first game back when he went for a swift 20 at Houston. But at times he has truly made Kentucky fans grimace as you feel his pain with every step. I freely admit to being no doctor, but the back and forth between playing and not playing makes one wonder if Jodie came back too early. Injuries are supposed to be something that you get over and the status of the player should not vary wildly by half. But for Jodie it has, and it does make one wonder.
Perhaps no player on the team felt more of the extreme adjustment in coaching style between Tubby and Billy Gillispie than Jodie Meeks. No player on Kentucky was closer to the past regime and it has been difficult for Jodie to make the transition. It is an open secret (regardless of comments to the contrary) that Meeks strongly considered a transfer at one point this season and there were signs early in the year of dissatisfaction with his current state. But much of that has gotten better. Meeks truly believes in the team concept and the new “family” that has taken over this UK team. But when one looks on the bench and sees the current Cats, it is hard not to feel some sympathy for the young man from Norcross, Georgia. At the end of last year it was easy to see Meeks and think that his sophomore season would see him become a star. Then his coach left and a transitory period began. He started the season afire (remember that first exhibition game where he was unstoppable) and has shown flashes of greatness. But he has also been consistently injured and has struggled to find his place on a new team. No player deserves a break more than Jodie Meeks. Here is hoping it is a good one and not another reason for him to consistently fluctuate from “active” to “inactive” in the lineup.