Identity Crisis: Are the Knicks Veterans or Grumpy Old Men?

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One of the popular narratives of the season for the New York Knicks has been their age. Before any game was even played, many were talking about how the Knicks’ roster is far too old. The average team age is the highest of any team in NBA history. The Knicks’ two rookies are 28 and 35 years old. The youngest player on the Knicks is Iman Shumpert at 22, the next youngest? J.R. Smith at 27. A common theme when the Knicks’ age was brought up was how they would have to deal with injuries. This was both fair and accurate, as New York has been bullied by injuries all season long. What wasn’t discussed at all was what kind of “old” are the Knicks?

I already know what you’re thinking,”what the hell does he mean by what kind of old?” Well, chances are, you’ve interacted with an elderly person plenty of times in your life. Now, there are some who are very wise, they’ll beat you in Chess every single time and give you valuable life lessons that you won’t ever forget. Then, there are the stingy, easily agitated, grumpy and mean old men. They’re the ones who will snap at any kid stepping on their lawn or talking to loudly with their friends on the bus.

So are the Knicks the smart and shrewd old man or the hot-headed infuriated one?

On one side, the Knicks, even in sporadic strings of lethargic play, have been balling. 32-18 record, 2nd best team in the Eastern Conference, and per Hollinger’s Playoffs Odds, they have a 100% chance of moving on to the post-season. New York leads the NBA in fewest turnovers, 3 point makes and attempts per contest, as well as ranking 3rd in Offensive Rating, 5th in NetRTG (Defensive Rating minus Offensive Rating) and 6th in True-Shooting Percentage (all stats here per NBA.com).

The Knicks have played this well largely without a full roster. In fact, I don’t believe they’ve had their full roster healthy even once this season. Carmelo Anthony would be a serious MVP candidate if LeBron James and Kevin Durant weren’t both having historic seasons, and low-cost players such as Pablo Prigioni, Chris Copeland, J.R. Smith and Rasheed Wallace have played way better than initially expected.

There’s another side to this tale, though. The Knicks have found themselves struggling against very physical teams, and often get themselves frustrated quickly, which knocks away their focus. This leads to technicals, flagrant fouls, and losses every single time. This has happened on numerous occasional: against the Boston Celtics at home, the Memphis Grizzlies on the road to name a couple. It’s also extremely evident in the amount of technical fouls and flagrant fouls the Knicks have picked up this season.

Technicals:

  • Carmelo Anthony, 10 (Rank: T-4th)
  • Tyson Chandler, 9 (Rank: T-7th)
  • J.R. Smith, 7 (Rank: T-13th)
  • Rasheed Wallace, 4
  • Raymond Felton, 3
  • Amar’e Stoudemire, 2
  • Pablo Prigioni, 1

One side note to further worry you about this list, Rasheed Wallace and Amar’e Stoudemire have played just a combined 40 games in total this year. As for flagrant fouls, there are 11 NBA players with multiple flagrant foul calls this season. Two of those players are Tyson Chandler and J.R. Smith.

These lapses in judgement when the Knicks find themselves doing more yapping than playing shouldn’t be a worry, but they are to me, because they aren’t simply lapses in judgement. They are full-blown predictable flashes of anger, ones you can expect whenever this team faces off against a team that wants to get physical and make the referees back off their whistles. And when EVERY team looks to get physical once playoffs time rolls around, the Knicks can’t be caught acting like fuming old men because they didn’t get their applesauce. The New York Knicks need to be poised, smart, and calm if they want to overcome the obstacles ahead.