Knicks Age And Injuries Were No Surprise

Published on: 22nd March, 2013


Knicks Age And Injuries Were No Surprise  | read this item

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New York – In a season that started out with such high hopes for the Knicks and their fans, it has now come down to what many suspected would be the inevitable reality of this campaign.  The question always hovering above this team was, would these old men the Knicks were paying to play a young man’s game be able to stay healthy for an entire season?

The answer? A resounding NO.

This is the part where we can insert “I told you so” into the narrative but the truth is, everyone told you so. It’s no surprise Amar’e Stoudemire, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas, Jason Kidd, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert, Raymond Felton, and Rasheed Wallace have missed significant time this season. Fully and predictably, two-thirds of the Knicks roster has been on the shelf this season for one injury or another.

The Knicks’ 18-5 start now seems like a distant memory. Since then, their record of 22-21 would barely qualify them for a playoff berth. Their starting five in recent games has included two veteran players who weren’t even in the league last year. Pablo Prigioni, a 35-year old rookie point guard had been a star in Spain before joining the NBA this year and Chris Copeland, a 28-year-old rookie, spent most of 2012 in Belgium after not being able to make an NBA roster for several years.

This was not exactly what Knicks coach Mike Woodson had in mind back in training camp last October.

From the relatively spry, healthy roster that opened the season and played those first 23 games like it was 1999, the Knicks, with a roster approaching an NBA-high average age of 33, saw the buildup of games eventually take its toll on their old, former stars.

In the season’s first two months, they were able to play defense as if Woodson was channeling Red Holzman’s teachings, helping each other and communicating on every possession with great energy. On offense, they played within a team concept not seen in these parts since the 1973 Knicks championship team. Both facets of the game have fallen precipitously.

Woodson is a tried and true defensive coach. His philosophy has always been that you win with tough, team defense. The Knicks, in their old age, have been unable to maintain their defensive performance since those early days of the season.

Particularly alarming has been their perimeter defense. One of the big messages Woodson conveyed to the media when he opted to sign the veteran Felton instead of Jeremy Lin to play the point was Felton’s on-the-ball defensive prowess. That’s turned out to be wrong, in the most significant kind of wrong you can get. And in the Knicks scheme, if the point guard can’t guard, it all goes to hell.

Felton has not been able to stay with quicker guards and can’t stop taller guards from shooting over him. He’s been a disappointment, overall, and as a floor general hasn’t garnered the respect of the team, and Anthony, in particular.

So, once again, without a point guard who is able to control the offensive flow (as Jason Kidd did in the early games this year), we are once more seeing the old Carmelo emerge from the mediocrity of Felton’s play.Instead of respecting the playmaking ability and decision-making of his point guard, Anthony is becoming the low-percentage shooting machine he’s always been known to be.

Anthony, surrounded by lesser talent now, has gone back to believing the Knicks can’t score unless he’s shooting it. He may be right but, if the Knicks had a more decisive presence with the ball in his hands than Felton, Anthony would most assuredly be less a focal point than he is now.

Which takes us to Jason Kidd. Watching a 39-year old Kidd play only conjures fantasies of what a young Kidd could have done back in the day and what he could have accomplished with talents like Anthony, Stoudemire, and Chandler. But, Kidd has essentially become a facilitator of ball movement and a good help defender, not coming close to being the great player he was as a 29-year old. The hope had been that come playoff time, Kidd would miraculously find a fountain of youth and guide this team deep into the tournament. Those hopes and dreams have dissipated into the reality of this long season for the future Hall of Famer.

Kidd Struggles To Defend and Score

When Woodson and Glen Grunwald, the Indiana University duo, decided to add frontcourt depth by signing Camby, Wallace, and Thomas, they were adding almost 120 years of over-the-hill, physically-inept talent. As one pundit commented before the season, these guys would have made an excellent front line, in 1997. Not 2013.

The recent signing of that young buck, Kenyon Martin, has taken on greater importance for the Knicks than they could have predicted. Originally viewed as an insurance policy just in case Wallace didn’t return from his foot injury, the Knicks now need this 35-year old power forward, he of the two microfracture surgeries on his knees, to fill a crucial role for the remainder of this season and into the playoffs. On this team, Martin, a 15-year veteran is a veritable rookie.

The Knicks can only hope Stoudemire can return for the playoffs ready to play 25 productive minutes per game, Camby and Kidd make a deal with the devil for a few weeks of youthful exuberance for the playoff run, and one of the old geezers on the front line can give them quality minutes behind Chandler (who has missed the last five games with injuries) and Anthony.

But, don’t count on it.

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