Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose are Knicks. (Full disclosure: This post used to contain sentences about Eric Gordon, and now it doesn't, and I feel good about that.) Noah's career is peppered with knee tendinitis, ankle soreness, and a recent shoulder surgery. Rose, of course, has had surgeries in both knees, and he smashed up his face to start last season.
I've seen it said that New York has focused on injury history as a market inefficiency. I'm ... not sure that makes sense, since the Knicks have paid top-dollar for these guys with little competition to speak of, but I do buy the idea that this isn't an accident. The Knicks clearly feel comfortable with their ability to manage injuries, and perhaps that's reasonable. Because of bad management and bad luck, New York's been famously lame for like a decade. But not last year:
NBA injury plot. Teams top left = playoffs and/or led division. Teams bottom right = golfing. Except Grizzlies. pic.twitter.com/XEYXAqSJ9d— Man Games Lost NBA (@ManGamesLostNBA) April 15, 2016
There are your Knicks, solidly in the bottom half of the league in man-games lost to injury.
A great deal of that is luck. No amount of procedural caution will save a player from getting his shin sat on, and with one exception, New York was very fortunate in the freak-accident department. They also didn't have Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani on the team anymore. That helps.
But if I may apply causation to correlation here, I reckon New York's new-ish training staff had something to do with that chart up there. Phil Jackson shifted and added some personnel (junior, not the doctors) before the 2015-2016 season, and the organization's habits seemed to change in step. We saw way fewer vague post-game injury reports, way more sudden rest days and players annoyed with the trainers. Annoying players is a good thing! Constant appraisal of "healthy" players' statuses isn't new, but the doctors' level of influence -- a coaching staff basically beholden to their recommendations -- felt unprecedented for the Knicks. And -- again, thanks in part to luck -- it paid off:
Every regular starter played over 70 games. That includes Carmelo Anthony, whose knee was regenerating after surgery. That includes a spindly rookie who took some terrifying falls and got shut down for the last 7 meaningless games. That includes a full 82 for Robin Lopez and 71/72 for Arron Afflalo and Jose Calderon, though they looked sore all season. Unless Lance Thomas is getting the J.R. Smith sign-then-knife special, it appears the Knicks shelved Lance and his chronic knee issue early enough to avoid the need for surgery. I'd rate Thomas as the only rotation Knick to suffer a significant injury absence this season.
And I suppose the complement to all that is the team these guys are coming from -- you know the team that jacked up minutes for years and damn near killed Luol Deng. New York has reason to believe they can handle bumps and strains and soreness a lot better.
Confidence in the medical and training staff does not alone explain an offseason of spending, but I bet it explains some of the thinking behind it. And for the first time in a while, that confidence seems justified.