An offseason full of uncertainty, hand-wringing, and one very controversial trade has produced the most unlikely of results for the New York Knicks: their 2012-2013 roster will return pretty much intact. Yes, they lost Jason Kidd and Steve Novak, and they still might lose Chris Copeland, but with the resigning of Pablo Prigioni and JR Smith, this team will return its entire starting lineup from the end of last season, as well as their key reserve.
By the end of last season the starting five of Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler was firmly established, with Pablo taking minutes away from the rapidly-declining Jason Kidd. Now, Mike Woodson has a chance to go back to that starting group. The roster still needs tweaking - they are in desperate need of another defensive big and could certainly use a quality perimeter defender - but GM Glen Grunwald has shown a talent for acquiring valuable reserves for little salary. And for all the hullabaloo surrounding the Andrea Bargnani trade, Woodson can facilitate a relatively smooth transition by simply sliding Bargnani into Steve Novak's old spot in the rotation.
This is all merely conjecture, of course; I have no idea how Woodson will use Bargnani. Personally, though, I wouldn't break up the old starting lineup for the sake of a player coming off a terrible season with a reputation for poor conditioning and commitment. If Bargnani wants to play his way into the starting lineup next fall then, by all means, he is welcome to do so. Until then, let's stick with what worked last year.
Yes, "continuity" is the word of the day in Knicksland. The front office has brought back the core of a team that was knocked out in the second round of the playoffs...and the majority of Knicks fans seem happy with the decision. This lusty approval of the status quo runs contrary to almost everything you will ever hear or read about New York fans. The book on New York fans is that they are so obsessed with winning championships every year that they've damned each hometown team to an endless cycle of roster makeovers. That kind of thinking has been the bane of my fan existence. How many times during the Isiah era - in the wake of yet another inexplicably short-sighted trade - were Knicks fans forced to listen to some talking head pull out that same tired old line: "He had to do something here...this is New York. They won't tolerate a rebuild. They demand a winner, now."
The Knicks must tear up their roster each year and rebuild because Knicks fans won't tolerate a rebuild. It is the peculiar curse of Knicks fandom - every team must occasionally endure incompetent management and horrible trades, but few fans are held up as the reason for the mismanagement. Is it any wonder, then, that many fans are excited about reuniting the core of their best team since the turn of the century?
We harbor no illusions about this team - it is probably not a championship contender. But the Knicks were not in a position to turn themselves into a championship contender, barring an act of God.
As far as I'm concerned, the Brooklyn Nets did the Knicks a favor by constructing the perfect foil for next season - a team of pure evil, sure to inspire loathing in the Knicks and their fans, yet still eminently beatable. Spare me all this talk of how the Nets already have the Atlantic under wraps before a single game has been played. We've been here before, people. The simple fact of the matter is that both of these teams are so old and injury-prone that next year's division title might just come down to sheer, blind luck.
Not long after the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett trade was finalized, Knicks fans were treated to this photo from Amar'e Stoudemire's wedding. With the exception of Kurt Thomas (retired), each one of these guys will suit up in the orange and blue next season. From left-to-right, we have a shooting guard who nearly shot his way off the team in the playoffs, a guard coming off reconstructive knee surgery, a forward lacking anything resembling a human knee, a forward who may or may not need shoulder surgery, and a Kurt Thomas. Only one of these guys was drafted by the Knicks, yet, in their own weird way, each one is a Knick in the truest sense of the word. They're not the demigods of the Willis Reed/Clyde Frazier era, they're probably not even as good as those old Patrick Ewing teams, but they're the best group we've had in a long time. These are our New York Knicks, and we can't wait for next season to start.