Who would have thought that injuries to a pair of 38-year-old role players would be a primary cause to slowing down the New York Knicks, who came out of the gate as one of the NBA’s elite? It’s undeniable that the injury to Raymond Felton has had a huge impact as well, but the interior toughness and depth that was vacated when Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby were sidelined has yet to be adequately filled in their absence.
Wallace, who didn’t play last season and was a part-time player the previous season, isn’t going to be able to log major minutes and solve everything, but his body inside and threat to shoot while spacing the floor (over one 3PTM per game this year) has been missed. With the minutes he can hold up with, averaging about 14 over 20 games, he has been a productive rebounder with just over four per game in addition to 0.8 blocks, making a nice complement inside. The return of Amar’e Stoudemire is a big addition, but only nine games in, it remains to be seen how he performs fresh off an injury on a drastically different Knicks team than he remembers playing for last season.
Camby’s second stint with the Knicks has been a far different one than his first one over 10 years ago, but he still has been a valuable asset, even while only seeing about 10 mpg. As recently as last season Camby averaged nine boards and 1.4 blocks a game in just over 20 mpg for Portland and Houston. More importantly, Camby is the best shot blocker on the Knicks, averaging 0.8 this season in those limited minutes and 2.4 per game for his career.
Tyson Chandler has proven his defensive value and has last season’s Defensive Player of the Year award to show for it, but his shot blocking ability doesn’t coincide with his defensive reputation and is lacking (1.0 blocks per game in 30+ mpg this year). What was brought to the court by Camby, a former NBA Defensive Player of the Year himself, shouldn’t be overlooked.
The Knicks may be thinking about how they can overcome the Heat in a playoff series, winning just a lone playoff game against them least season, but this lack of interior presence will prove to be a problem against more than just the Heat. Teams like the Bulls with Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, and Taj Gibson inside will only get stronger with the return of Derrick Rose and the Knicks are already 0-3 vs. Chicago.
They don’t even need to look further than their own division for proof that they need to get tougher inside, allowing Kevin Garnett to put up 19 and 10 in their last meeting with the Celtics and getting embarrassed on the glass in Monday’s game vs. the Nets as they were outrebounded 52-37.
Between Chandler, Stoudemire, Wallace, and Camby, the Knicks had a good mix of options going for the 4 and 5 position in addition to Carmelo Anthony’s ability to play the 4. All of those players have different dimensions to their game and as a unit, have shown success this year. If they all prove to be healthy, the Knicks could have something that works but with age a factor for Wallace and Camby, that “if” becomes far less likely and it’s harder to rely on them to seamlessly bounce back from injury and slide back into the rotation.
The Knicks are still in the process of getting fully healthy at multiple positions, but as it stands right now, they will need more stability inside to ensure their credibility as a title threat this year and should explore all options for reinforcement before the trade deadline rolls around.