Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
GREENBURGH, N.Y. – As the Knicks have gotten rid of youth in favor of veterans this offseason, one thing has become abundantly clear. This franchise, which has not won an NBA title since 1973, is going for it all right now in this three-year window with Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler at its disposal.
With that line of thinking ruling the Knicks’ free agency motives over the last 12 days, the team introduced one seasoned veteran on Thursday afternoon who is bound for Springfield once he retires, and another seasoned veteran who remains a defensive force and a favorite son at Madison Square Garden.
Seemingly willing to play behind incumbent point guard Jeremy Lin, but also indicating he can still play at a high level, Jason Kidd was introduced at the MSG Training Center on Thursday. Two seats down from the one-time New Jersey Net was another new acquisition, Marcus Camby, who starred for the Knicks in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, helping lead them to an unlikely trip to the 1999 NBA Finals as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Between the two was General Manager Glen Grunwald, who gave a reminder of what the end-goal is in bringing Kidd and Camby to New York.
“It’s not often you get a chance to acquire two great veteran players like this to add to a team that we already think is pretty competitive,” Grunwald said. “We’re looking forward to making progress and continue moving towards our goal, which is an NBA Championship.”
Despite being 39 years old, Kidd could probably be a starter somewhere other than New York. He appeared primed to re-sign with Dallas, but suddenly flip-flopped, instead signing on with the Knicks for a reported three-year deal worth $9 million. For that amount of money, Kidd is expected to back up Lin, at last at the start of the season, in addition to serving as a mentor.
All of that is assuming Grunwald matches the four -year, $28.8 million offer sheet given to Lin by the Houston Rockets. When asked about matching the offer sheet, Grunwald gave no indication that the team would stray from the original plan of matching any offer made to Lin.
Aside from Kidd at the point, the Knicks reportedly agreed to terms on Wednesday with another veteran point guard to mentor Lin in the form of Argentina’s Pablo Prigioni, who will be an NBA rookie at the age of 35 next season. Prigioni is gearing up to play for the Argentinian national team, which will face Anthony, Chandler and Team USA in Group A play at the London Olympics on Aug. 6.
“As you get older, I think you try to change your role as much as you try to improve your game,” Kidd said. “I’m 39 and I felt that, and I still feel that I can start, but this is a good opportunity to back up Jeremy or whoever it may be. I’m a basketball player, when I’m in the game, my job is to get the lead or maintain the lead and find a way to win ball games.”
Camby isn’t much younger than Kidd at 38, but he is still very proficient at clogging up the middle and rebounding the ball as a backup behind Chandler, the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
The former University of Massachusetts standout is back in New York via a sign-and-trade deal that sent Toney Douglas, Josh Harrellson, Jerome Jordan and two future second-round picks to the Rockets. Camby signed for three years and $13.2 million.
Camby remains one of the more beloved figures in recent memory at Madison Square Garden thanks to that run to the NBA Finals 13 years ago. The Knicks have seemingly tried multiple times at the trade deadline in recent years to reacquire him after he was unceremoniously traded in 2002, and Grunwald finally made it happen.
“It feels good to be back home, back to the New York area, to be back home where I grew up at in Connecticut,” Camby said. “It’s crazy how things come full-circle. Ten years ago I was here and now I’m embarking on the last few years of my career here in New York.”
“I think they can bring a lot of things,” Grunwald said. “Wisdom, experience in the locker room. They can bring an understanding of what it takes to win. Marcus is a great rebounder, still a great shot-blocker, and Jason is still a great point guard.”
The Knicks have gotten a lot older in the last two weeks, but they have arguably gotten more formidable as well with Kidd and Camby in the fold. The re-signings of Steve Novak and J.R. Smith this week will now give way to whether or not Grunwald will opt to match the offer sheet to Lin, as well as the three-year, $20 million offer sheet to third-year shooting guard Landry Fields.
Lin appears a lock to return, but the future in New York for Fields is far less certain with Novak and Smith in the fold, along with the Knicks reportedly in the market for another shooting guard, but at a veteran’s minimum salary.
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