Knicks take "experience" to the extreme

Rasheed Wallace cheers on his team as they

Rasheed Wallace cheers on his team as they play against the Nets in the preseason at Nassau Coliseum. (Oct. 24, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

The Knicks seemed to be rewording the Statue of Liberty inscription when they built their roster for this season. They took the retired, the aging and once-star players yearning to beat the Heat.

The huddled masses of Knicks' fans would like that. They haven't seen their team win a playoff series since 2000.

The Knicks' season is off to a bad start, as Amar'e Stoudemire will miss 6-8 weeks after undergoing left-knee debridement, which means plenty of Carmelo Anthony and Kurt Thomas at power forward.

Even with a healthy Stoudemire, few outside the Knicks' locker room believe they're good enough to dethrone LeBron James and defending-champion Miami. But the Knicks have constructed a team that could win a playoff round or two if they're healthy.

"I feel like we got the right personnel," Tyson Chandler said. "We got a lot of vets on our team. Once we get everybody healthy our depth is going to be probably the key to our success. We're able to bring five fresh bodies in at a time and still keep our rhythm. That's going to be good going down the stretch."

Stoudemire's situation makes that depth critical for the Knicks. But the oldest team in NBA history, according to Stats LLC (averaging 32 years, 240 days old)hopes it's in one piece down the stretch of the season and playoffs.

When the Knicks open the season -- which is now scheduled for Friday at home against the Heat -- they will be without Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert (left knee surgery). Marcus Camby is a question mark with a strained left calf. Rasheed Wallace will play his first NBA game since 2010 after taking two years off for personal reasons. And Chandler isn't 100 percent due to a bone bruise in his left knee, but he's expected to play.

When the playoffs start, the Knicks will have two 40-year olds (Thomas and Jason Kidd), Camby will be 39, Wallace 38 and Pablo Prigioni almost 36. Stoudemire, Chandler and James White are all 30.

But in that group there is plenty of big-game experience and pride, and collectively they want to prove age is just a number.

"We feel that we can be really good defensively and offensively," Kidd said. "Sometimes injuries can help. When you're short-handed, guys tend to play a little bit better. For us being veteran guys, there's no one trying to win MVP or anyone trying to make the All-Star team, it's just about winning. That eliminates a lot of distractions."

The Knicks have relatively young legs they will rely upon with Anthony, Raymond Felton, Ronnie Brewer, J.R. Smith and Steve Novak, who will join the 30 club in June. The Knicks hope to still be playing then.

Anthony seems primed for his best season. He spent the summer playing with James and the rest of the U.S. Olympic team. Anthony said it taught him to trust his teammates more. Despite Anthony saying he doesn't have to score 30 or 40 points anymore, there will be games the Knicks need that of him.

"I don't want to keep harping on that, what I'm going to do," Anthony said. "I'd rather not say it. I'd rather just do it and just play basketball in the midst of everything."

Coach Mike Woodson has many more options than last year when the Knicks went 36-30 and lost in five games to Miami in the first round.

Felton, Kidd and Prigioni are a better point guard group than the Knicks had last year, including Jeremy Lin. The Knicks also have productive, defensive-minded big men who will play more minutes than originally thought due to the Stoudemire injury.

"Until he gets back, it gives other guys an opportunity to step up and play," Woodson said.

Chandler and Kidd have compared these Knicks to their Mavericks team that won the 2011 NBA title. They were considered old, with a superstar in Dirk Nowitzki and anchor in the middle in Chandler.

The Knicks have the star in Anthony, Chandler -- the reigning Defensive Player of the Year -- and some young players mixed with their graybeards.

"You had everyone willing to come together for one common goal," Chandler said. "That team was very special. We're not close to that now. But personnel-wise we got the same capability.

"Because of our depth we were able to come together and it was difficult for teams to be able to take on our waves. That's what I feel like this team will accomplish. We have to dedicate ourselves to do that. But we have the personnel to do so."

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