By bringing in the slew of veterans that they did this past summer, the Knicks not only added some major depth, but also wisdom, experience, and intense hunger for that ultimate prize.
The likes of Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas, Pablo Prigioni, and Rasheed Wallace will help New York boast the oldest roster in the NBA history this season. With all the criticism that the Knicks’ roster won’t be able to keep up with the competition enough to maintain a serious run, each of these veterans have something serious to prove.
But which of them has the best chance at doing so? The fact is, which each vet in their upper thirties, a downhill decline has (however quickly or slowly) began as they enter the twilight of their careers. Though Prigioni himself is technically an NBA rookie, the difficulty of making mass adjustments to the stateside game may outweigh his eagerness to embark on a new journey.
For the returning four veterans, however, it’s all about proving to all the doubters and naysayers that you have enough left in the tank to make a positive contribution.
Coming off the weakest season of his career, Kidd shot just 36% from the field last season, and what’s more, only appeared in 48 (out of a possible 66) contests. The guard had previously played in at least 80 games in each of the last few seasons since 2005-06.
But it will be his court vision that will warrant him some key minutes on the court. The Hall of Fame floor general will be tasked with running the show for the Knicks’ second unit. After averaging 28.7 minutes per game as a starter last season, Kidd will be expected to play even a little bit less coming off the bench. Hopefully the extra rest and less pressure will aid him in making legitimate contributions, but the decline has already began.
Kurt Thomas is no longer a major contributor, and may even lose out on some rotations minutes in favor of other big men on the roster. That said, the recently turned 40 year old still knows how to endure a few of the bumps and bruises down low for a few minutes per game. Able to still provide a team with 10-15 minutes per contest, an elder NBA player’s shot is always the last thing to go, and as of now, Thomas can still knock that mid-range shot down on a consistent basis. He knows his role, and understands how to play within his means.
Two of the more unknown outcomes on the bench belong to Wallace and Prigioni. Whereas Wallace returns to the NBA after previously trotting off into retirement, Prigioni will hit the ground running as he embraces a new challenge. Still slowly making his way back, Wallace is yet to scrimmage with the Knicks players in training camp. Currently on a non-guaranteed contract, taking a risk on the veteran big man was a low-risk, high-reward type move for the Knickerbockers. It’ll be interesting to see how this one pans out, but if Wallace is able to embrace his role similarly to Thomas, a 10-15 minute per game jolt of intensity could be just what the doctor ordered for the Knicks each and every night.
In the case of Prigioni, he’s also a player who won’t be expected to do too much. That said, with Kidd on the decline and susceptible to injuries in his older age, it’s crucial Prigioni remain fresh and prepared to step in if and whenever necessary.
And then there’s Camby. One of the more physical and dominating defensive big men of the last decade, the returning Knickerbocker averaged 9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 59 contests last season. The plus side? He did so while only playing 23 minutes per game. The center in fact started 53 of these contests, and still was able to make a major impact even in his older age. Camby, perhaps more than anyone else, is able to compete at the same intense level on a nightly basis.
By moving the big man into a reserve role, the Knicks are taking less pressure off of him, all the while hoping the very transition will makes things easier for him. The idea in playing him off the bench is to prolong his contributions and more important, his effectiveness. It’s all about making life easier.
And that’s the mentality the Knicks have when it comes to each and every veteran joining their seasoned roster. By taking the pressure off, and putting each player in the best possible position to succeed, New York is hoping to bring out the best in each one. If the play their cards right, the team will be key contributions from a group, who is collectively hungry for one last chance, all season long.