Each October, the New York Knicks seem to find themselves in various headlines—for a myriad of reasons—and this year is no different. Training camp is underway, and the Knicks already have New York buzzing.
They've revamped several key areas of the squad, and they may play a bit different strategically after a second-round ouster at the hands of the Indiana Pacers.
As the season opening draws nearer, not unlike previous years, a few myths are being tossed around—by media and fans alike—as fact.
The Small-Ball Knicks are Dead
After acquiring Andrea Bargnani from the Toronto Raptors in June, the Knicks' most popular alignment from 2012-13—Carmelo Anthony playing power forward with two point men in the backcourt—seemed impossible to maintain.
Assuming Bargnani would be the team's new starting 4, Anthony would be bumped down to his traditional 3 position. Starting two point guards would no longer be possible, since Iman Shumpert is better suited for the starting five than occupying one of the guard spots.
Heading into the year, we knew that Mike Woodson could go in many directions with the starting lineup, with a roster including various players capable of playing two positions (Anthony, Shumpert, J.R. Smith, Beno Udrih, Metta World Peace, etc.). But Woodson was a bit revealing on Thursday, speaking about his decision-making process.
According to Newsday's Al Iannazzone, the coach still hasn't decided if he'll chose to go big or small with the lineup and will use training camp to help him reach a decision.
There are pros and cons to each lineup Woodson can run out. We're all familiar with the dual-point guard dominance from a year ago—the team won 38 of its 54 games when two point men started the game.
If the Knicks do the same this year, Bargnani would become a reserve. This would also be the case if Woodson chooses on a World Peace-Anthony-Chandler starting frontcourt.
Including MWP as a starter would bolster the first unit's perimeter defense—Shumpert is also one of the best at guarding the ball—but dramatically weaken the reserves' D.
The second team would then likely be comprised partially of Udrih, Smith, Amar'e Stoudemire (assuming he steps foot on the hardwood this season) and Bargnani, who are all poor defenders. Kenyon Martin will also be part of that squad, providing it with at least one sturdy defensive linchpin.
Even if Woodson does choose to start a more traditional lineup, there should be opportunities for the smaller units to get some burn in-game, for shorter stretches.
Small-ball will still be a possibility, but no matter what Woodson decides on, he was spot-on during an interview Wednesday:
The Knicks are Old and Washed Up
After a 2012 offseason packed with moves bringing in battle-tested veterans, the Knicks earned themselves a league-wide, deserved reputation as flat-out old.
Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas were all at least 39 at some point in the season, and all but Kidd were rendered essentially useless due to injury. Some could say Kidd was essentially useless by the postseason due to overuse.
With all four of those players moving on from New York this year (two are now on NBA coaching staffs), management replenished the depth chart with some more youth.
Beno Udrih will replace Kidd in the point guard rotation, and he is nine years younger. The ancient and fragile Thomas-Wallace-Camby center relief trio has been replaced by 22-year-old Jeremy Tyler, with Cole Aldrich (24), Ike Diogu and Josh Powell (both 30) competing for the 15th roster spot.
New York drafted Tim Hardaway Jr. with the 24th overall selection, adding depth to the backcourt. Hardaway, at 21, is the team's youngest player. Tyler and Hardaway are both younger than any player on last year's Knicks.
At the onset of last season, the team's average age was nearly 33. Fast forward one calendar year, and that number has shrunk to 28. That team employed six players over the age of 35, while this one has only two in Pablo Prigioni and Kenyon Martin.
With Prigioni, World Peace and Tyson Chandler on the wrong end of 30, the team still has major players contributing that may not be blooming stars. But they're far from the aging catastrophe from a year ago. They're deeper, and in a much better position to win, despite the new lack of veteran locker room voice.
Iman Shumpert Loves Playing Defense
By watching Iman Shumpert for just a single game, it's easy to see why he's so valuable to the Knicks. His work ethic is second to none, his motor is outstanding and he does the "little" things that you see from all championship-level squads.
But his calling card over his first pair of NBA seasons, without a doubt, has been his stellar defensive play. It's what helped him earn First Team All-Rookie honors in 2011-1, and what's established him as one of the brightest swingmen under the age of 25.
His play is so resounding on that end, one would tend to believe that the 23-year-old thoroughly enjoys defending opposing ball-handlers and ruining their entire day. But Shump made sure he debunked that theory during on media day.
During last year's postseason, New York allowed nearly five points less per 100 possessions with Shumpert on the floor, per Basketball-Reference. His impact on the defensive side of the ball is greater than any other player's is on the Knicks, and it's certainly one of the highest in the East.
But an aggravated Shumpert dispelled the misconception that he's merely Tony Allen 2.0. His goal is to win, which is accomplished by scoring more points than the opponent. Shumpert correctly summarizes that stealing the ball gives the opponent less chances to score, hence increasing the Knicks' chances at winning.
See, it's all so simple. Shumpert doesn't love defending you. He just really likes winning. I'm sure the Knicks are fine with either.