Basketball season is officially around the corner. Following an offseason filled with its own share of twists and turns, players and staffers alike from the Knicks packed the team’s training facility on Monday for Media Day 2012.
General Manager Glen Grunwald and Coach Mike Woodson finally faced the music with regard to questions about the departure of Jeremy Lin.
As players spoke with us in groups of two, each pair was asked to address a number of different topics, including team chemistry and realistic goals for the upcoming season. As expected, there was a general feeling and attitude of optimism all around.
That said, the age of the team became an ongoing theme as the session progressed. As elder statesmen like Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, and Kurt Thomas appeared, many members of the media pondered whether or not the Knicks would collectively have enough gas in the tank to power through a strong enough playoff run.
All questions and concerns aside, Coach Woodson wouldn’t have it any other way.
“When you look at the core of our team in Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, and Amar’e Stoudemire, we all felt as though we needed veteran pieces around those guys,” the coach asserted.
“It’s not young teams that are winning NBA titles, guys,” Woodson continued. “I went that route some years ago in Atlanta. It was a good run, taking young players as we tried to build a championship team.”
“This go around for me,” he added, “to be able to take a veteran team with guys like Jason, Marcus, and Kurt, and assemble this group from the start of camp is important for me from a coaching standpoint. I have guys who think they can play, and it’s up to me as a coach to push all the right buttons.”
Coach Woodson appeared more interested in the team’s overall depth than anything else, comparing it to some of the deeper and more successful teams in all of the NBA. Addressing concerns about the team’s overall chemistry, the coach said it would be up to him to help his players find the right rhythm on the court.
And it certainly will be. After a summer of some major acquisitions, Woodson’s fingerprints are all over this roster. Praising the experience and maturity all the way down to a fringe rotation player like the returning Thomas, the coach is clearly more than content with the makeup of this squad.
But the Knicks aren’t done making additions just yet.
Though veteran forward Rasheed Wallace was expected to have already signed with the team after announcing he’d be coming out of retirement to join the Knicks, Grunwald and Woodson both said they hoped he would finally don his orange and blue jersey for the first time on Tuesday instead.
The coach went on to talk about his familiarity with the big man, saying, “I had great success with Rasheed in Detroit. Obviously we won the NBA title in 2004 under Larry Brown. He’s a great teammate who knows how to win, and he’s great from a defensive standpoint. Rasheed makes players around him better.”
Balancing out the team’s core with proven veterans is clearly Woodson’s formula for success. The front office is certainly behind him full-heartedly, sacrificing some of the team’s youth for that same incoming maturity and experience.
Taking kind of the “been there, done that,” attitude with regard to the youth movement, the Knicks’ coach will enter his first full season with the team with quite the ideal roster for his tastes.
One could argue that given the years remaining on the contracts of some of the team’s core players, the Knicks are simply doing what they feel is best to better embrace the window for success they’ve been dealt.
Even recognizing that, however, there’s no denying that Coach Woodson has major influence on the makeup of this roster, convincing the front office to put all their eggs in a veteran-type squad basket.
This season will begin to prove whether or not the Knicks are ultimately going to win big before time runs out. But for Woodson and company, there are no more excuses. The squad at hand is the one they’ll be moving forward with, for better or worse. At least the coach wouldn’t have it any other way.