(Note: It’s been more than a minute since last we spoke, but please understand that it’s not you, it’s me. Between father/husband/career demands and a well-earned beach vacation – not to mention being fairly burned out by the 2011-12 season – taking some time away from the blog was an absolute necessity. Rest assured, I return to you fully charged and ready to serve up the delicious Knicks fare you have come to expect. I very much appreciate your readership and support, so without further ado, let’s get it on!)
Now that Jason Kidd has committed to joining the Knicks (we won’t know for a few days exactly how that will be accomplished structurally under Collective Bargaining Agreement), attention remains focused on yesterday’s meeting in Houston between club representatives and former ‘Bocker Marcus Camby. Camby, 38, was a member of the Knicks from 1998-2002 (he averaged 10.2 points on 49.7% shooting, 8.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks) before being traded to the Denver Nuggets along with Mark Jackson and the draft rights to Nene – thanks Scott Layden! – in exchange for Antonio McDyess. Though no longer in his prime – Camby won the Defensive Player of the Year Award back in the 2006-07 season – he would bring to the Knicks a legitimate defensive and rebounding presence, which would be significant given the need to manage Tyson Chandler‘s minutes.
The rap on Camby has always been that he can’t stay healthy, but the UMass product has actually managed to average just under 60 games played per season over his 16-year career. If New York is successful in acquiring him, via either the “mini-MLE,” which is approximately $3 million, or a creative sign-and-trade transaction (think Toney Douglas, Dan Gadzuric‘s non-guaranteed contract and/or Josh Harrellson/Jerome Jordan), they will have significantly improved themselves during an off-season in which few thought they were so capable.
In fact, assuming Iman Shumpert – currently rehabbing that torn ACL – returns to the starting lineup by January, as projected, the Knicks’ second unit is likely to look like this:
SG: J.R. Smith (Still thought to be a lock to return to the Knicks for one year at $2.8M, though I cannot for the life of me understand why Smith wouldn’t get a far more lucrative multi-year offer elsewhere. We are, after all, living in a world where the dearly-departed Landry Fields (no, the Knicks will not match) is going to be paid $20M for three years.)
SF: Steve Novak (Though not being talked about much, it is widely assumed that he will be back as Knicks have his early Bird rights and can match any other teams’ offers.)
PF: Harrellson (Assuming “Jorts” isn’t jettisoned, but even if he is, Jared Jeffries remains a low-cost option who wants to be here.)
That five would represent a more than respectable backup squad given today’s NBA salary cap reality, especially given the firepower that New York’s starting lineup is capable of bringing to battle on a nightly basis. Consider that Miami’s title run last season would not have been possible without clutch contributions in the playoffs from their supporting cast of characters.
With respect to Kidd, he is, quite simply, the greatest passer that I have ever seen (just edging out Magic Johnson and the aforementioned Jackson), and I would argue that perhaps no player in the history of the league has ever gotten more out of less athleticism. A sure-fire Hall of Famer, owner of one Championship ring (and trips to two other Finals with the Nets), Kidd simply knows how to play the game. He is a master at reading angles on both ends of the floor and he is capable of running any offense. Pick ‘n roll with Amar’e? No problem. Offense getting stagnant with four dudes standing around watching ‘Melo? No worries. Need someone to hit a big trey while the defense is busy contending with your primary scorers? Bingo.
Of course, much has been made of Kidd’s woeful last two seasons in Dallas, where the 18-year-veteran shot just .361 from the field collectively. Shooting aside,however, he also managed to average 7.2 assists versus just 2.1 turnovers while playing 31 minutes per night. And yes, his defense has slipped considerably in recent years, but for 20 or so minutes a night, what he lacks in quickness, can be made up for in guile.
At the Garden, Kidd will presumably be asked to do much less than he has a starter – though Mike Woodson does have a thing for older
women players – but his real value will be gleaned in the locker room and in between Jeremy Lin‘s ears. You may recall that I once compared Lin to Kidd – check the “What Went Right” section here – and I can think of no other player on the planet better suited to school Lin in the intricacies of the point guard position.
For example, though last season’s sample size was small, Lin did seem to demonstrate a proclivity to drive to the basket at all costs (a majority of his unnecessarily high turnovers occurred in that exact scenario), and Kidd can certainly instill in Jeremy a sense of when and when not to push the envelope off the dribble. Additionally, Lin’s ability to navigate the endless egos on this roster will be watched closely amidst high expectations, something Kidd has done time and time again throughout his illustrious career. (Come on, the Jim Jackson and Jamal Mashburn experiment was a longggggg time ago!) Finally, in Kidd and Chandler, the Knicks will have two players with the recent hardware to back up their vocal leadership qualities. With any luck – and a little bit of maturity – perhaps the light will go on for Carmelo Anthony playing with a proven floor general like Kidd, despite the latter’s decline in performance.
It will clearly be incumbent upon Woodson to manage Kidd’s minutes – and Camby’s, for that matter, assuming the Knicks get their man – but if the pair is used correctly, there is no doubt that New York will enter the 2012-13 campaign a more experienced, deeper and undeniably better team. Considering the Miami Heat aren’t going away anytime soon, that is welcome news for Knicks fans.
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Image by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images