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The Myth of the Healthy Knicks

Posted By Howard Megdal On January 30, 2013 @ 11:51 am In Roster construction | Comments Disabled

Jason Kidd will not play tonight against the Orlando Magic.

[1]For those of you devastated by news like this, I have a warning: save your strength. There’s probably more coming.

The New York Knicks are built around a starting shooting guard who is 39 and played too many minutes in the season’s first half. As a result, their primary scorer off the bench (J.R. Smith) is averaging nearly 34 minutes a game, after averaging just under 25 per game over his first eight seasons.

Their other primary bench scorer, Amar’e Stoudemire, is coming back from knee surgery, having previously had microfracture surgery and, last season, a back injury.

Their backup centers are all approximately 40 years old, and their absences have forced Tyson Chandler to play more than 35 minutes per game over the past 20 games, so now he’s hurting.

So this idea of projecting the Knicks as whole [2], and injury-free, once Iman Shumpert and Raymond Felton returned, wouldn’t have made sense for any NBA roster. But certainly not this one. And I can’t imagine the Knicks planned for such a best-case scenario from the start.

Here’s the good news: all that was true, and then some, in a first half when the Knicks managed a 26-15 record, a 52-win pace. And while expecting more injury difficulties from Kidd and the other older Knicks, or even Stoudemire, is reasonable, the Knicks also lost more games from generally healthy, 20-something players like Felton, Shumpert, and even Carmelo Anthony. Smith, buttressed by Shumpert, won’t need to play as many minutes. Anthony, who can leave the court with Amar’e around and not see the offense completely shut down, can limit his minutes.

All of this should have a solid carryover effect, not just for team play, but for the players on this team staying healthy. (One exception: that Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace might not be around until after the All Star Break is a problem- the Knicks need coverage for Chandler, and they need it now.)

But it won’t be perfect, in all likelihood. Expecting a complete set of Knicks, now and forward, is setting yourself up for brutal disappointment on a regular basis.

Getting as many of the total group healthy by May, though: that’s a different, worthier, and effective goal.

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[1] Image: http://knicks.lohudblogs.com/files/2013/01/Knicks-76ers-Basketba_Megd-1.jpg

[2] this idea of projecting the Knicks as whole: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/sports/basketball/with-so-many-ailing-knicks-focus-on-plan-b.html?ref=basketball&_r=0