By John Schmeelk
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Whether in the newspapers, in blogs or on Twitter, the running joke about the Knicks is their advanced age. They’ve been called geriatric, ancient and elderly. There’s no doubt that the team is older than it was last year with the additions of Jason Kidd (39), Marcus Camby (38), Kurt Thomas (40), Rasheed Wallace (38) and Pablo Prigioni (35). The average age will say this is an old team, but stats are deceiving.
The truth of the matter is that the Knicks aren’t relying on any of those four players to start for them. Only one is expected (at times) to be on the floor at the end of the games, and that’s Kidd. The Knicks’ starting five on opening night will feature Raymond Felton (28), Ronnie Brewer (27), Carmelo Anthony (28), Amar’e Stoudemire (29) and Tyson Chandler (30). The average age of the starting lineup will be 28.5. Every single one of those players are in their prime.
J.R. Smith (27) will play a lot as will Steve Novak (29) and Iman Shumpert (22) when he returns. Of the older players on the roster, just Kidd and Camby should get significant minutes to start the season. If Thomas and Wallace play it should just be in spot duty for a couple minutes. Throw Kidd and Camby into the mix with the group in the above paragraph, and the average age of the players in their rotation will be 29.7. That is not old. Even throwing in Thomas only brings the age to 30.5.
So for as much as the Knicks are being chastised for their age, only two — or at most three — of the players in their rotation can even remotely be considered older than their prime. Wallace and Thomas provide depth for one another in case of injuries, and the same can be said for Prigioni and Kidd. Camby only missed seven games in a shortened season last year (and averaged ten rebounds) while Kidd has only missed 23 games in his last four seasons. If one or two of these players go down for even an extended period of time, the Knicks would not only be able to survive, but thrive.
Off the court, those players also provide the Knicks something they desperately need: players that know how to win. If Anthony can get his head on straight and play winning team basketball, the Knicks can be championship caliber. Kidd can help him get there. So can Thomas and even Wallace, who won a championship playing ultimate team ball in Detroit. As nuts as Wallace appears on the court, he is universally considered a great teammate. The Knicks can only go as far as Anthony takes them, and if these veterans can help just a little bit to make him the star and leader the Knicks need him to be, the risk of an aging bench is well worth it.
For all the nonsense and spin the Knicks put out there on media day, coach Mike Woodson did say one thing that was accurate: Veteran teams win championships, especially teams with their primary players in the prime of their career. The Heat fit that criteria, and so do the Thunder and Lakers. The Celtics keep winning and their stars are older than the Knicks. Do the Knicks have the chemistry of Boston? It remains to be seen. But their new players, even the old ones, can help them get there in more ways than one way. Many things could stop the Knicks from winning a championship this year, but age won’t be one of them.
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