The New York Knicks’ health issues in their frontcourt are, and have been, an obvious concern. The Knicks have been without Rasheed Wallace for quite some time; Amar’e Stoudemire is still working his way back from a second knee debridement; Marcus Camby has hardly been active at all this season; and now recent injuries to Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin have the team terribly thin upfront. A season-long concern about the durability of the Knicks’ big men is nothing new.
However, what’s developing now, is that the shoulder-load of healthy players has increased to stressful levels due to the dwindling ranks. The Knicks’ short-handedness up front last night in Chicago led to Carmelo Anthony, Chris Copeland, and J.R. Smith playing heavy minutes out of position. Fortunately, the Bulls were without two of their big men in Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, so the Knicks weren’t too badly beaten up by considerably larger opponents.
However, because of the short rotation – James White was the only active player not to get off the bench last night – important players are logging heavy minutes. Carmelo Anthony played 45 of the 53 total minutes, J.R. Smith played for 42 minutes, and Jason Kidd, a player who clearly plays better when given rest, logged 37 minutes. Raymond Felton almost played the entire game – 49 minutes – and strained his knee on the opening tip of overtime. Though Felton has claimed that he’ll play tonight, the Knicks now have another important player limping into the regular season’s finale.
According to multiple sources, the Knicks will cut Kurt Thomas today in order to sign Solomon Jones, which will at least add one more healthy big body into the mix. Jones had had a few stints as a third string big man in the NBA, and may actually see some minutes if Chandler and Martin don’t play the four remaining games in the regular season.
Going into Cleveland to play tonight, the second night of a back-to-back, the Knicks aren’t even in a position to rest their top guns. Even if they were willing to concede loss and rest, say, Felton and Anthony, that would leave only seven active players, assuming Jones won’t be with the team yet. Again, the problem remains that missing players from the rotation only further adds to the burden of the healthy players and puts them at risk of injuring themselves by playing heavy minutes.
The absence of Chandler and Martin has seriously hurt the Knicks as both players have become part of New York’s most used, most efficient lineups. Chandler, of course, provides the backbone of the defense, a threat in the pick-and-roll, and presence on the offensive boards to give the Knicks new possessions. Martin, in his short time in New York, has become a physical presence, capable of finishing around the basket, and while he’s not an integral part of the Knicks’ defense, surprisingly, he does his best to protect the basket, and he’s able to switch onto smaller players.
If Felton is indeed seriously injured, it’s obvious how it will affect the Knicks’ currently scorching offense, and furthermore, their overall rotations.
Right now the Knicks are in a precarious position between wanting to win games and retain the second seed, and trying to keep players healthy. It’s an unenviable position for coach Mike Woodson, and one that could face serious repercussions either way. Just get healthy, Knicks. Please.