In life, age matters. For most, when you're young you have all the tools to do amazing things but it's not till you're older that you realize how foolish you were not to do them while you could. Like in everyday life, in sports older players usually mean more mature, established and knowledgeable person. However, the facts of life will tell you that it's the younger players who are more athletic and spry. The New York Knicks are no exception. Last season was a very successful one for the franchise despite falling short of their ultimate goal of bringing a championship back to Madison Square Garden. However, a now younger roster has the Knicks feeling like their in a position to improve on last seasons success.
Last season the New York Knicks were considered skilled but old. In fact, the roster had the distinction of being the oldest team in NBA history last season. While it's clear the leadership that came along with that experience helped set a tone and focus the younger players it also ultimately cost the Knicks chances of reaching their goals. After all, experience and grit are wonderful attributes to bring to a team but only if you can keep yourself on the court. However, the franchise feels it has a greater chance of success from the off-season moves that made the Knicks a younger team headed into the 2013-14 season.
Felton pointed to the elderly bench of Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby and Jason Kidd, who fell apart in the playoffs, as part of the team’s ultimate undoing, getting KO’d in the second round by the Pacers. With training camp opening Monday, none of those players are back. Three of them have retired.
“We’re a younger team this year,’’ Felton said at an Under Armour appearance at Macy’s in Herald Square. “Kurt Thomas, Rasheed, love them like brothers. [But] those guys were 38, 39, 40 years old. Once they got injuries, they’re out and it hurt us last year. We’ve added Metta [World Peace], [Andrea] Bargnani, Kenyon [Martin] and Amar’e [Stoudemire] are coming back. Tim Hardaway [Jr.] looks great by the way. I’ve been most impressed with him. It gives us depth at that big spot and youth. Those guys are younger.
“No knock to the guys we had last year. Those guys had incredible careers. I wish I could play that long. But we are young. That’s what I’m saying. We’re a younger team this year. We still got depth from last year, but we also have a younger bench. That’s going to help us later in the season.”
Does getting younger mean the Knicks are a shoe-in to unseed the Miami Heat as NBA champions? Of course not. However, it puts them in a better position to be able to stay healthier than they were last season. Anybody can get hurt of course. That's just a fact of life. However, the chances of a 30 year old missing most of the season are simply lower than those of a 38 year old.
One of the big reasons why the Knicks fell short of their goals last season wasn't because of a lack of skills but because of a lack of fire power. They went from a team who seemed like it had great depth to one desperately searching the street for eligible bodies. That's something they hope to avoid during the 2013-14 campaign.
That being said, there are still health concerns on the Knicks roster. Amare Stoudemire will be on a 20-minute time restriction all season in an attempt to keep him healthy and lethal. Andrea Bargnani has had a terrible time trying to stay on the court the last three seasons and will have to be monitored. However, he should benefit from a reduced role in New York as he's no longer the focal point he was with the Toronto Raptors.
Kenyon Martin will now be with the team for a full season instead of a the final 20 or so games where he could go all out with the freshest legs on the court. Mike Woodson will have to make sure he doesn't overuse Martin and recognize how the NBA season is a marathon and not a sprint.
Tyson Chandler is a player who has dealt with health issues his entire career and had his effectiveness greatly reduced in the playoffs because of nagging injuries. During his time in New York, Chandler's played about 33 minutes a game. In his career he's shown he's more impactful as a 28-30 minute a game player. The coaching staff should be mindful of this and use the roster depth to keep Chandler healthy throughout the season.
Metta World Peace has the potential to be a great addition but he too is no spring chicken. Woodson can't fall in love with World Peace's defensive skills and overuse him in the regular season. On top of that, J.R. Smith and Jeremy Tyler will be returning from surgeries and even rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. had a hand issue during the summer.
Overall, the youth movement of keeping Smith, adding World Peace, Bargnani, Tyler, Hardaway Jr., Beno Udrih, Tyler, C.J. Leslie and a potential backup center like Cole Aldrich should mean the Knicks will have even more depth next season than they did last season. It's not a given but it's likely.
The fact is, getting younger is a good thing in sports. Sometimes you can get too young and lose the experience and leadership needed to win. However, the Knicks were able to get younger this off-season while keeping their core of Tyson Chandler, Felton, Smith, Carmelo Anthony, Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert together. They were also able to keep veteran tough guy Martin around along with veteran point guard Pablo Prigioni.
When you consider three of the off-season's biggest additions were veterans such as World Peace, Bargnani and Udrih you realize that the Knicks were able to accomplish getting younger without getting too young. Hopefully the strategy will pay off in the end.
Either way, they're definitely more skilled and youthful going into next season and should be better suited to pushing the ball up the court instead of always having to settle for three-point attempts. Remember, veterans are good. Youth is good as well. However, the combination of youth and experience is usually what spells success in the sports world.
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