Mike Woodson (left) and Carmelo Anthony
One week of training camp is in the books, and we're starting to get a better sense of what this New York Knicks team is made of.
After a disappointing 2011-12 season, the Knicks went into free agency and loaded up on veterans. New York's top 13 players have an average age of 32.8 years old, which would make the Knicks the oldest team in NBA history.
Whether this makes for a mature roster or a brittle one remains to be seen. If the Knicks want to be true title contenders, they have to hope it's the former. So far, it looks like it could be both.
Let's take a look at who has made a good first impression at Knicks camp and who has had a rough time early on.
Raymond Felton, circa 2011
Raymond Felton is back for his second stint as a Knick, and he returns with a score to settle.
According to NJ.com, Felton acknowledged that poor conditioning led to his lackluster performance for the Portland Trail Blazers last season. A lesser player could've just ignored the criticism, but Felton took it to heart by shedding 20 pounds in the offseason and returning to New York focused on playing his best basketball.
This rededicated Felton has already made an impression on Carmelo Anthony, who praised the point guard's commitment.
"To come back here and take on that [leadership] role, I see a totally different Raymond right now [with] his mindset and focus," said Anthony. "And you can see how hardened he is out there on the basketball court."
Almost immediately after camp kicked off, Mike Woodson named Felton the starting point guard. He has already earned the respect of his teammates and coach, and he's well on his way to returning to the form Knicks fans remember from back in 2011.
Tyson Chandler gave Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd a vote of confidence at point guard, the New York Daily News reports, but that means Pablo Prigioni could be the odd man out of the rotation.
Coming to the NBA for the first time at the age of 35, the Argentinian vet cut his teeth playing in the Spanish Liga ACB and running the offense for his national team. Prigioni turned down all prior NBA overtures, but, to him, the Knicks were different. "I can help the team," he explained to ESPNNewYork.com after signing. "They demonstrated that trust in me."
Prigioni already knew Felton and Kidd would be in New York when he made his decision, but it doesn't sound like the Knicks are expecting much production out of their aged rookie. It will be an uphill climb for Prigioni to get playing time, but he has not done much to help his cause so far.
Some fans might not consider Carmelo Anthony a training camp winner until je shows he can play alongside Amar'e Stoudemire. Actions speak louder than words, after all, but Melo's talk certainly has been reassuring.
In an interview with ESPN New York's Dave Rothenberg, Anthony emphasized that winning is his only goal this season, even if it comes at the expense of his scoring.
"(On) a night to night basis I want (the offense) be more well-rounded," Anthony told Rothenberg. "I just want to win basketball games. If I score 10,11 points and we win basketball games, that's my mindset right now."
For a guy with a reputation of only caring about scoring, this is a stunning turn of events. If Melo did only score a fraction of his per game average, the Knicks would only win if he moved the ball, crashed the boards, and locked down on defense. That's just what he has to do for New York to have a legitimate shot at a championship.
Even if Melo can't bring himself to cut down his scoring that drastically, his message is still good for the locker room. It's a surprisingly strong bit of leadership and a powerful message from Anthony. If the Knicks truly forget about the stats and play to win, it will be tough to stop this team.
Marcus Camby (left) and Kurt Thomas, circa 2000
Of course, the Knicks need to stay healthy if they want to go anywhere in the postseason.
The injury bug has already bitten the Knicks this fall.
Most notably, Marcus Camby went down with a strained left calf, and he will miss seven to ten days before he can return to action. Amar'e Stoudemire and Chris Smith have also been banged up, while Rasheed Wallace is not yet in playing shape. Meanwhile, Iman Shumpert and Ronnie Brewer are both out nursing knee injuries.
None of these recent injuries seem to be serious. Of that group, it's possible that only Shumpert will still be rehabbing when the season starts. The problem is whether this Knicks can withstand the rigors of an 82-game season, much less a playoff run.
At their age, Camby and company could very well fall victim to nagging injuries this season, rendering New York's new-found depth moot. Furthermore, the Knicks are weakest at power forward, so Sheed needs to get on the court and prove he can play some substantive minutes behind Amar'e.
Depth was supposed to be a great strength for the Knicks this season. It still can be, but the questions surrounding it have reared their head already.
Mike Woodson deserves a ton of respect for his work at the helm for the Knicks, turning obstacles into creative opportunities.
Faced with a dinged up team early on, Woodson was still able to be optimistic, focusing on the opportunity to build a versatile roster, according to ESPN.com.
"I like that," the coach said. "That's kind of the team that we put together in Atlanta, where we had same-size guys that were versatile, that could play a number of positions. These guys are veteran guys and we've got a good group where we can mix and toss a little bit in terms of how we play, which is kind of nice."
That's how the Knicks can fight through their injuries. So long as none of the Big Three go down with a significant injury, Woodson's foresight should allow the Knicks to weather the losses.
More importantly, this is a welcome departure from the usual coach speak surrounding injuries. It usually amounts to a coach saying the team will have to buckle down until the hurt player returns.
Woodson actually has ideas on how to meld his roster to fit a given situation and solve a given problem. The Knicks floundered when Mike D'Antoni was not flexible enough; it appears that problem is behind them now.
New York has shown a novel commitment to professionalism and team play thus far, with Woodson spearheading it all. If that mentality persists into the season, this team won't get derailed the way last year's squad did.