New York Knick Kurt Thomas is an easy fan-favorite in the Big Apple. The fact that he currently stands tall as the NBA's oldest player would be enough of a novelty reason to root for him, but there's no denying he can partially be credited with bringing the last visible sign of greatness to the Garden.
In addition to being a double-double threat and an on the fence all-star during the early 2000s, Thomas was a key member of the 1998-99 Knicks squad that made a trip to the NBA Finals. The big man started 44 out of 50 games that season. After experiencing such rich success, he couldn't be more thrilled to be back for another shot.
"We have a great group of guys here," Thomas gushed. "We all get along in the locker room, on the court, and off the court. We've been having a good time, and I think that shows on the court as we play. There's about 30 games left, so the key for us is just staying healthy. We need to fight off the injury bug. We just got off a four-game losing streak. That was a tough stretch, but hopefully it'll actually make us a better team as we bounce back and finish the regular season."
With the addition of Kenyon Martin, the Knicks have gotten older but added some more experience too. Having competed against so many of the players on the team that have been around the league, Thomas talked about putting that competitive attitude towards one another aside for the ultimate goal. He said that the team chemistry is great, and the players have been putting individual goals aside for a shot at a championship. His statement only further suggests that players like Martin and even Amar'e Stoudemire don't mind giving up some playing time down the stretch. The Knicks have seen various players make other sacrifices as well, such as Carmelo Anthony with regard to emerging as more a team player.
Over the years, Thomas has previously played with guys like Stoudemire, Raymond Felton, and Marcus Camby on different teams. The 40 year old shared the secrets to his longevity, adding, "Earlier in my career, I did get stung by the injury bug. I broke my ankle four times in a period of two years. Since then, I've had injuries but overall, I've been able to stay healthy. For me, it's about getting off my feet during the summer time and letting my body heal. I change up my workouts year round. I do a lot of yoga."
Thomas spoke with KnicksJournal.com live from New York City at the John Starks Foundation's annual Celebrity Bowling Tournament. The foundation does great work year-round to raise money for the less fortunate youth, awarding college scholarships to those who shine with regard to academic and athletic achievement in the tri-state and Tulsa areas.
Though the two never played with one another, they've cleared bonded through being part of the Knicks fold for quite some time. Thomas was also found joking around with the likes of Allan Houston, Larry Johnson, Herb Williams Anthony Mason, and Charles Oakley throughout the night. Current Knicks Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton also made appearances at the event.
But unfortunately for them, none of those guys were as solid of a bowler as Thomas. Displaying quite the competitive edge, the big man knocked down strike after strike and showed enthusiasm by getting into huddles with his teammates for the night.
There's no doubt that as Thomas was swarmed by fans and supporters all night long, people are happy to see him return for a second stint that could be culminated by something really special. He's sincerely just as thrilled, so much so that he couldn't quite come to a decision as to what his favorite thing about being back really is.
Gushing once again, the veteran said, "Oh wow. This is the best city in the world. We have the best fans. There's so much to do in this city, no matter what mood you're in. If I had to say one thing I enjoy the most, it'd be playing in the Garden."
If the team's overall attitude and mentality is that of what Thomas insisted it was, the moral is still as high as can be and the players believe that the current group has what it takes to win it all. Perhaps the big man's overwhelmingly positive attitude is infectious.