Photo by Kathy Willens/AP

The New York Knicks’ Odd, Continuous Search For Veterans


It’s been said over and over this offseason – AARP jokes, the Knicks are on everyone’s bucket list, etc. Yes, the Knicks have become a much older team going into this 2012-13 NBA season, and everyone knows it.

Of the six players on last year’s roster who were 25 or younger, the Knicks kept just one of them – Iman Shumpert. Some of those players were lost through free agency, some were lost through trades (including draft picks) for players whose value were perhaps not worth what they cost. Somewhere along the line, management decided that the Knicks needed more veterans, more experienced players to get them over the hump. Mike Woodson echoed these sentiments himself during the summer.

Although it’s been disproved that ‘old’ teams win championships, the Knicks’ front office was not necessarily in the wrong frame of mind for wanting to form an older, more experience club – one that could level themselves during the rigorous ups and downs of the regular season, and withstand the intense pressure of the playoffs.

It could be a gamble to rely on some of the older bodies to play vital roles on the team, but it could pay off. There is no need to mention Jason Kidd’s rapidly declining numbers, or that Pablo Prigioni, the third string point guard, is a 35-year old rookie. No need to mention the possibility of Marcus Camby (38) and Kurt Thomas (39) not holding up as Tyson Chandler’s back-ups through an 82-game season. All teams have to take risks, and the Knicks are betting against Father Time.

However, it seems that as the offseason comes to a close, the Knicks want to be the ones making old jokes themselves.

First there was the Tracy McGrady workout. Now there are the Rasheed Wallace rumors. Though the McGrady situation seems to have dissolved, the Wallace situation still hangs in limbo, evidently in the hands of Rasheed Wallace himself. If the agreement between Wallace and the Knicks were to be anything more than a training camp invite, that means the Knicks would have just one roster spot to fill before they reach the maximum 15 player limit.

There is a certain belief system that goes like this: what older veterans lack (or eventually begin to lose) in skill, they make up for with intangible qualities. These qualities include leadership, stabilizing presence in games and in the locker rooms, knowledge of the ins and outs of the season, perhaps even hustle or craftiness. If we are to buy into this belief system, the Knicks have all of these qualities sewn up, not just with the older players previously mentioned that were brought in this offseason, but with players like Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire, or Carmelo Anthony, none of whom are newcomers to the NBA or inexperience with postseason basketball.

At a certain point, the Knicks odd, continuous search for veteran players becomes fruitless when these qualities have all been filled. If, for instance, players that are being signed bring more ‘intangible’ qualities than actual tangible qualities – shooting, rebounding, passing, defense – , then the Knicks are better off searching for younger, more promising players. After all, how much veteran leadership is needed? At what point does seasonal, ‘big-game’ experience from different players just blend together into similar lessons?

The Knicks don’t need to be working out the  Mcgrady’s and Wallace’s of the world; past-their-prime players, who, perhaps tellingly, are not employed by any other teams. As a reminder, the Knicks’ last two signings in the 2011-12 season were Steve Novak and Jeremy Lin. They should be turning their attention elsewhere.

Tags: 2012 NBA Offseason New York Knicks Rasheed Wallace Veterans