The Knicks during the off-season last year did the best they could to add depth and veteran leadership with a group of players that could also help compliment Carmelo Anthony.
For the most part, Glen Grunwald and his staff did a good job in finding those players. The guys he signed ended up being key contributors to the best Knicks team since the 2000 edition.
So how did each player that played for the Knicks this season perform? Well here are my thoughts on how each did and whether or not we will see them next year.
(In Alphabetical Order)
Earl Barron: He had a pretty good game in his one appearance against the Hawks, grabbing 18 rebounds. That is pretty much it. He could get an invite to training camp and a shot to make it as an end of the bench big man (AKA the Herb Williams Memorial Roster Spot). The Knicks got burned towards the end of the season with the lack of young big men on the team. Barron could help alleviate those concerns next year.
Marcus Camby: His contract really, really stinks. Hurt for most of the season, Camby essentially got Wally Pipped by both Rasheed Wallace and Kenyon Martin in terms of being the first big man off the bench. He claims to have been healthy in the playoffs and could have helped against the Pacers but Coach Woodson thought otherwise. He is going to be back and if he can stay healthy can be a solid backup to Tyson Chandler.
Chris Copeland: Remember back in training camp and the pre-season when Copeland barely made the team as the 15th man on the roster? Those days are over for him now. An unknown from the European Leagues, Copeland burst onto the scene and eventually became a key part of the Knicks bench. Coach Woodson was too stubborn with him in my opinion in the middle of the year. Yes his defense needs work but it got slightly better and his offensive game had plenty of potential. He will be a Restricted Free Agent and some team could pay him about what they want to pay. Althought I hope that is not the case. He is another Steve Novak with a much more rounded offensive game and better defensively. If the Knicks bring him back, he will be the backup to Melo and can be like Vinny Johnson was years ago for the Pistons, Instant Offense.
Jason Kidd: He was a great part of the Knicks fast start to the season including a three point shot that shockingly was very good. The problems for Kidd started when Raymond Felton broke his finger in December, and in turn was driven into the ground by Mike Woodson. The overplaying of Kidd seemed to be the beginning of his downward spiral towards the end of the season. He was removed from the starting lineup for Pablo Prigioni and was God awful in the playoffs. His contract means, unless he is bought out, he will be back. He won’t start unless forced to next year and that should work better for him. He may not score but does a lot of the little things that can help a team win. He can be a key piece for the Knicks next year if used properly.
Kenyon Martin: The Knicks were so desperate for anyone with size that they came hat in hand to Kenyon Martin and they hit pay dirt. Martin was a very good piece for the Knicks down the stretch and really helped the team in the same fashion that Rasheed Wallace had at the beginning of the year. It was unfortunate that the Pacers were able to get him out of rhythm in the playoffs but his season was still a rousing success. The Knicks will only be able to give him the veterans minimum and he should take it. He was good for the Clippers last season and still nobody signed him untill the Knicks did. So, he may not want to risk it again. The front line depth with Chandler, Martin, Stoudemire and Camby is old and potentially injury prone but still not that bad.
Steve Novak: He can make a three point shot unlike many people in the NBA. That’s pretty much it. His defense is atrocious, his contract basically makes him untradeable and his offensive game is as limited as it gets. He had an up and down season where his three point shooting came and went it seemed from game to game. His back injury during the Celtics series really hurt the Knicks and he eventually found himself stapled to the bench. He will be back next season and will need to really battle against a guy like Copeland to get minutes. He can be a key part of the Knicks but to me he must improve his all-around game to get that chance.
Quentin Richardson: We will always have the fourth quarter of Game Two against Indiana when he hit a couple of threes and that nightmarish few minutes against Boston in Game Four. He won’t be back, but it was fun while it lasted with Q-Rich.
J.R. Smith: The 6th man of the year enjoyed maybe his best regular season as a pro before crashing down to Earth in the playoffs. He hit game winning shots, carried the Knicks when Melo was out and changed his game to more of a slasher as the season ended with the Knicks winning game after game. He was the second best player on the team and showed the league the kind of talent he has. The playoffs though were a nightmare. It was the evidence his doubters needed to get on him and will probably haunt him until next post season. Smith is a free agent but is expected to return to the Knicks. I hope he does because I think he is the kind of scorer and slasher the Knicks need off the bench. We have seen him at both his best and his worst this past season and I think we will continue to do so over the next four years.
Amar’e Stoudemire: It was a lost year for the man that helped the Knicks start the trek back to relevance. First, he had knee surgery in the pre-season that cost him the first half of the year. He then returned on New Year’s Day and for two months seemed to be getting better and more comfortable with his bench role. He was going to be the post presence off the bench that the Knicks needed when Melo was off the floor. Then his other knee needed surgery and that was basically that for Amar’e. He was a shell of his former self against Indiana and it was honestly sad to see (athough where did that buzzer beating three in Game Three come from?). His contract guarantees he will be back and the question now is what will his role be. I think he should still come off the bench as he and Melo don’t seem to work. The thing is that Amar’e wants to give it one more try. We will see how Coach Woodson handles that once training camp begins.
Rasheed Wallace: The Ball Don’t Lie and the bones in his feet didn’t either. The “Knicks just signed HIM?” guy from training camp proved to be a key part of their hot start to the season. He had some nice post play, shot the three alright (except for those times he decided one made three meant taking eight more randomly) and had some great passion and leadership both on and off the court. The injury to his foot was a killer for the team until Kenyon Martin showed up during the middle of year. He did try to comeback at the end of the year but it didn’t work out and Wallace retired. He wont be back but he will certainly be missed.
James White: He stunk in the Dunk Contest, stunk in his chances as a starter and will not be back next season. Flight White was grounded all year long.
Those are my thoughts on the Knicks bench, what do you think? Who should stay? Who should go? and what should the roles be for the guys you end up keeping?