Now that the league-wide moratorium on signing players has passed, the Knicks were finally allowed to introduce their two most famous additions — Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby.
And while critics scoffed at the thought that the Knicks have gotten older, everyone inside the facilities praised the fact that they’ve gotten wiser.
“Young teams don’t win titles; veteran teams do most often,” said coach Mike Woodson on Wednesday from Las Vegas. “That is a fact.”
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General manager Glen Grunwald has close ties with Camby as far back as when Camby was a burgeoning star for the Raptors.
“It’s exciting when you get the chance to bring a former Knick like Marcus Camby back home,” Grunwald said. “His defensive presence, shot-blocking ability and offensive board work will give us nice depth in our frontcourt.
“In addition, our fan base is very fond of him for what he accomplished here during his four seasons,” Grunwald said of Camby who sports career averages of 10 points and 10 rebounds. “I also have a great appreciation of Marcus after the time we spent together in Toronto.”
The Knicks, however, insist these moves weren’t for nostalgia’s sake, as they believe the veterans have much to offer in terms of on-court performance. Camby appeared in 59 games (53 starts) for Portland and Houston last season, averaging 4.9 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.44 blocks over 22.9 minutes. Grunwald believes he’ll be a viable backup option to Tyson Chandler — and may even play alongside the reigning Defensive Player of the Year at times.
Grunwald, who acquired Kidd via the mini mid-level exception and Camby through a trade with the Rockets, said he’s “very happy” with the route the Knicks took in order to close the gap on the defending champion Miami Heat.
Kidd, who helped lead the Mavericks to the title in 2011, can also be serviceable as a steady floor leader and mentor for Jeremy Lin — when the Knicks, as expected, finally match the four-year, $28.88-million offer sheet he signed with the Rockets last week.
“It’s about winning. And what we’re measured on is trying to win a championship [and] I think we have the ability to do that,” said Kidd, adding he’s also welcoming the chance to mentor Lin. “As you get older, I think you try to change your role as much as you try to improve your game. … Hopefully [the biggest lesson he can teach is] don’t play in the fifth gear all the time and to stay fresh late in games and the season.”
Having a positive influence late in the game was a common theme throughout the press conference. If Iman Shumpert recovers 100 percent from his torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), Woodson will have the flexibility to trot out a crunch-time lineup of Kidd, Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony, Camby and Tyson Chandler. Also add in the possibility of Landry Fields, should the Knicks match his offer from the Raptors — and sources say they’re “50/50” on doing so — the Knicks will have a formidable lineup that may at least slow down LeBron James and Co. in the waning minutes.
Camby said lineups, roles and rotation minutes are for another time, as he was just happy to talk about his career almost coming “full circle.” The versatile forward/center, who came to New York in exchange for guard Toney Douglas, centers Josh Harrellson and Jerome Jordan, and two future second-round draft choices, said he was actually “shocked” that he wouldn’t finish his career in Houston, but added if there was a better place to land on his feet, it’d be New York.
“I don’t know what happened down there [but] you see they are going in a different direction,” Camby said. “But it’s good to be back home. It’s crazy how things come full circle. Hopefully I can end my career in New York with a championship [because] I’ve always considered myself a Knick at heart.”
Camby, who considered signing with the Heat, noted it was easy to choose New York over Miami, simply because of the heated rivalry both franchises had during his first tenure.
“After the [late ‘90s] wars that we went through versus the Heat, I couldn’t just flip and sign with Miami,” Camby said.
» Camby last played for the Knicks from 1998-2002, averaging 10.2 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.91 blocks over 28.6 minutes in 197 regular-season games (103 starts). He appeared in 40 postseason games (seven starts) and played a pivotal role, alongside current assistant general manager Allan Houston and basketball and business operations representative Larry Johnson, during the Knicks’ run to the 1998-99 Eastern Conference championship. He ranks as the franchise’s fifth all-time shot-blocker (376). He’s played for seven different franchises (New York twice, Nuggets, Clippers, Trail Blazers, and Rockets) during his 16-year NBA career. He is a two-time NBA All-Defensive first team selection (2007, 08) and was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2007. He was originally selected by Toronto, after his junior season at the University of Massachusetts, in the first round (second pick overall) of the 1996 NBA Draft.
»Kidd and Camby weren’t the only signings, as J.R. Smith and Steve Novak both officially returned. Smith averaged 12.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.54 steals over 27.6 minutes in 35 regular-season games (one start) with the Knicks last season. In the five postseason games, he averaged 12.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.20 steals over 35 minutes. Smith is a Freehold, N.J. native who said he took less money to “stay home.” Novak led the league last year in 3-point accuracy and re-signed for four years and $15 million.
» Grunwald said he hasn’t “looked at the Rockets’ offer sheet for Jeremy Lin yet” but added “it’s likely” they’ll match the offer.
Grunwald also said the team “hasn’t reached any decision at this time” on whether they’ll match Landry Fields’s offer sheet from the Raptors. When pressed about the futures of both young vets, Grunwald said he’d love to have everyone back: “Landry Fields and Jeremy Lin, those are two young players that we’d like back here. We’ll make a final determination when we need to make that determination. Now is not the time.”
»Woodson revealed that Novak had “a stomach procedure” that kept him from working out until now but wouldn’t give further details on what exactly ailed the sharpshooter.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8 for all your offseason news.