GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Knicks are so old that even Iman Shumpert has gone waaaaaay old school, sporting a flattop hairstyle that looks like it was an idea spawned by going through old videotapes of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas and Jason Kidd were able to move about Monday without the aid of a walking cane or a wheelchair, but trainer Roger Hinds was not made available to the media to answer the question of how much Geritol he is stocking for the 2012-13 season.
The Knicks are so old that the names Chris Dudley and Herb Williams (in the context of when they were effective contributing teammates) were brought up by Camby, who was with New York and played alongside those dinosaurs the last time the Knicks reached the NBA Finals – which was 1999.
As for the young guys? Well, they are almost all in their 30s, too.
Even, Tyson Chandler, who has been playing in the NBA for 11 years, turns 30 on Tuesday. If it seems like Chandler has been around the NBA forever, consider that he is one decade and two days younger than Thomas, who turns 40 on Thursday.
Rasheed Wallace has not yet signed his contract and was not around to explain his return from retirement at the age of 38, which makes him the fourth-oldest member of a Knicks team that no doubt will require afternoon naps, yell at the TV on off nights and drive their Buicks and Oldsmobiles in the left lane, slowly, oblivious to the cars behind them honking.
These guys are so old, at some point the question must be asked whether Viagra is on the NBA’s banned substances list.
So there has never quite been an Old-Timers Day like the one the Knicks disguised as Media Day. And we haven’t even gotten a chance to mention their 35-year-old rookie, Pablo Prigioni.
Older, the Knicks kept repeating, is better.
“Young guys are not winning titles,” said Mike Woodson, whose interim tag has been removed after he guided the Knicks to an 18-6 finish last season before a 4-1 ousting by Miami in the first round of the playoffs. “I’ve experienced that (young guy) route in Atlanta. Yes, we improved and got better. But were we able to improve and compete for a title? No.
“But with this group, I think we’ve got as good of a shot as anybody.”
Judging from the questions, there will be a lot of stories in Tuesday’s New York newspapers rehashing the decision to let Jeremy Lin leave. No one quite knows what to expect from Ray Felton, who said he has “a chip on my shoulder” after a lost season in Portland for which he reported out of shape. (He still appears to have a paunch in his midsection).
Nor is there any certainty over whether Felton or Kidd would be the starting point guard, or whether Ronnie Brewer or J.R. Smith will be the starting shooting guard until Shumpert is ready to return from a torn ACL. (Neither he nor the Knicks gave a timetable for his return).
However, Carmelo Anthony did say again that his days of wanting to be a 30-35-40 points per night scorer are behind him, and he wants “to let J.R. do his thing off the bench.”
So maybe that was one clue that was dropped.
Otherwise, the proceedings were much more tightly controlled than the usual Knicks Media Day method in which players are scattered about the gym all at once, all available at the same time. This year, the Knicks brought pretty much everybody except Prigioni, James “Flight” White and the camp invitees to an interview podium one or two at a time. Informal discussions were discouraged (although I had one anyway with Kidd, who said his best golf round of the summer was a 75 in the Hamptons. I also noticed that the “Joumana” tattoo on his left ring finger has been removed).
At the podium, Kidd said the team reminded him a lot of the veteran Nets teams that he played on a decade ago, reaching the Finals in consecutive years. Perhaps the future Hall of Famer is losing his memory – a clear sign of old age – because the 2002 Eastern Conference champions started two rookies, had a second-year power forward named Kenyon Martin and zero players with 10-plus years experience.
Chandler said these Knicks remind him of the championship-winning Mavs of 2010 – probably a better corollary – and Anthony said the signing of Brewer may have been the most key pickup of the offseason, given what he can contribute on the defensive end.
The Knicks were fourth in the league defensively in Woodson’s 24 games last season, and there is no question they have improved in that area by adding Camby as the backup to Chandler, Brewer as the replacement for Landry Fields and Wallace as the beef behind Amar’e Stoudemire.
The coach will still have to find minutes for Steve Novak, who led the league in 3-point shooting accuracy, and balance those minutes with those of Smith, who never saw a shot he didn’t like.
But those are good problems to have for a franchise that has clearly gone all-in on winning a championship in the next 2-3 years, sacrificing all of their 2012-13 trade dollars, several future first- and second-round draft picks and all the youth and size from the end of their roster (Toney Douglas, Josh Harrellson, Jerome Jordan) that they had managed to draft, usually by purchasing other teams’ second-round picks.
“We don’t think we got older. We think we got more experienced,” Woodson said.
That is the best way to look at it, and while there are also going to be grand experiments made by on-the-cusp teams in Philadelphia and Brooklyn, none will be quite like the Knicks.
Camby is so old that he was acquired by the Knicks in a trade for Charles Oakley.
Thomas is so old that he was played against Arvydas Sabonis, Gheorghe Muresan, Dikembe Mutombo, Alton Lister and Charles Barkley in his rookie season of 1995-96. He was teammates with All-Caucasian Relic Second-Teamers Greg Dreiling and Fred Roberts his second season, and someone named Adrian Caldwell in his third season.
How healthy can a team this old stay?
Woodson said that was his primary concern.
But he also said the goals were to win the Atlantic Division and secure a top-four seed, figure out which combinations work well together, continue to be more of a defensive-oriented team, and hope for the best.
“When Dallas won, their average age was over 30. The key is to stay healthy,”Woodson said. “It takes veterans to win a title, adding guys that are battle-tested. That’s what it’s about at the end of the day.”
Chris Sheridan is publisher and editor-in-chief of SheridanHoops.com. He first covered the Knicks in 1992 when Doc Rivers was their starting point guard.