Mike Woodson and Amare Stoudemire
The New York Knicks have struggled with the injury bug more than most teams in the NBA. Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton, Tyson Chandler, Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace, and Amare Stoudemire have all missed significant periods of time off the court.
With depth becoming an issue, they were forced to sign forward Kenyon Martin for the remainder of the season after a pair of 10-day contracts.
Even with all their health issues, the Knicks just locked up their third straight postseason bid and are still in contention for the East’s second seed. Here’s how the injuries will hurt and help the Knicks this postseason.
One of the best attributes to this Knicks team has to be its bench play. This season they rank sixth in offense in large part due to their bench scoring so consistently. Both J.R. Smith and Steve Novak have not started a game thus far and yet combine to average more than 23 points per game.
With so many injuries, coach Mike Woodson will be obligated to play his bench earlier and more often in games, potentially reducing their effectiveness. This will also have a trickle-down effect as role players like James White and Marcus Camby will inherit larger minutes.
Along with having a smaller bench to work with, Woodson will have to rely largely on his veteran players to get the job done. According to USA Today, this season the Knicks set the record for having the oldest team in the history of the NBA, averaging nearly 33 years of age.
Long-term injuries to big men Rasheed Wallace and Amare Stoudemire will make things more difficult for the old legs of Camby and Kurt Thomas.
The Knicks roster has a few stars, plenty of vets and some unproven talent. Young guns Chris Copeland, Iman Shumpert and James White will all get plenty of opportunities to show their talent this postseason because of the lack of depth.
Shumpert has returned to the starting lineup since coming back from his knee injury but has yet to shine like the Knicks need. His play defensively hasn’t missed a beat, but they’ll need the young guard to contribute offensively as well to take the pressure off Carmelo Anthony.
One of the few benefits of having such a beat-up team is that they can rely on their superstar to carry them. Carmelo Anthony has shown to be one of the best players in the league again this year, and there is a noticeable difference in the team’s play when he’s not in the lineup.
This season, Melo has averaged more than 27 points and six rebounds and is a major reason for the Knicks’ success. With guys like Stoudemire and Felton banged up, the scoring onus will rest on Carmelo’s shoulders, which could be just what New York needs.
After the Los Angeles Clippers, it could be argued that the Knicks have the best bench in the league. For the year, their bench has averaged slightly more than 40 points per game, which is good enough for second in the NBA.
This makes sense when you think about the team’s success thus far as they’ve been able to avoid long losing streaks despite having so many injuries to key players.
The Knicks will be able to thrive this postseason if the play of their bench continues to register quality minutes against opponents’ starters as it has all year.