Knicks find success with old-school veterans
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The Knicks have never viewed themselves as being old, just experienced. That big-game knowledge possessed by veteran guys who are young at heart has helped key their success all season.
Carmelo Anthony is worthy of MVP consideration and J.R. Smith is a leading Sixth Man of the Year candidate. But the graybeards -- or "old heads," as Mike Woodson has called them -- continue to give the Knicks something they were missing last season and will need to go deep in the playoffs.
Jason Kidd, 40, and Kenyon Martin, 35, played major roles in the victory over Boston on Saturday in Game 1 of their first-round series. Kidd, Pablo Prigioni, Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas, Martin and even Marcus Camby contributed to the Knicks' 54-victory season and Atlantic Division title.
Each of them is at least 35, and it was by design that the Knicks' brass assembled a team that knows how to win.
"We were all on the same page and mindset that we probably needed to bring some veteran guys in that could still play and help us," Woodson said on a conference call Sunday. "We were able to do all of these things, thanks to ownership allowing us to do it, and field these guys we thought would be serious about winning a title and putting forth the effort on and off the court to help us get to that point."
When they were beset by injuries last year in the first round against Miami, the Knicks had nowhere to turn.
Jeremy Lin was out after knee surgery. Tyson Chandler was slowed by the flu in Game 1. Iman Shumpert tore his ACL in Game 1. Amar'e Stoudemire suffered a lacerated hand when he punched the glass casing of a fire extinguisher after Game 2. Baron Davis blew out his knee in Game 4.
By acquiring all these veterans, the Knicks are better-suited to compete with playoff-tested teams such as Boston and Miami, and the vets have helped them overcome injuries all season.
"I was basically looking for guys that had a defensive attitude and had a little edge to them," Woodson said.
Woodson personally hand-picked Wallace, whom he coached in Detroit, but Wallace was forced to retire last week because of a foot injury after missing most of the season. Thomas was waived because his season was over because of a foot injury. But the rest of the aged ones remain with the Knicks.
They hope to have Prigioni back for Game 2 Tuesday night. The extra off-days should help his sprained ankle heal and give Kidd and Martin some time to refuel after their big performances Saturday.
Kidd, who won a title in Dallas two years ago, played 35 minutes and had three steals -- all in the fourth quarter -- and five rebounds. Martin, who along with Kidd went to two NBA Finals with the Nets, showed his intensity and toughness with nine rebounds and two blocks.
"Plays like that, we expect J-Kidd to make those," Anthony said. "K-Mart on the defensive end, we really don't have to double a lot of people when he's down there in the post. We can stay home."
Woodson remembered Kidd and Martin leading the Nets back from 0-2 down against Detroit in 2004 to take a 3-2 lead. The Pistons won in seven, but they left an impression on him.
"Both of them are still relentless and savvy," Woodson said. "I couldn't be more pleased as a coach based on the guys we have fielded. Only time will tell. We just have to continue our journey and take it one game at a time and see where it takes us."