1:17 pm Oct. 15, 2012
As recently as a week ago, there didn't appear to be much room on the New York Knicks' roster for Chris Copeland.
The 6'8", 224 pound power forward was signed to a nonguaranteed deal this summer by the Knicks, after playing five years overseas. He's a useful scorer, and proved it during the N.B.A. Summer League, averaging 13.8 points per game for the Knicks in less than 23 minutes per game. But he looked to be totally blocked at the four.
Amar'e Stoudemire, after all, looked like he'd get the large majority of the minutes there. And when the Knicks wished to give Stoudemire a rest, they had options like Rasheed Wallace and Kurt Thomas, or even Carmelo Anthony sliding up to power forward with Steven Novak at small forward.
But things have changed in a hurry. Copeland forced his way into the conversation with a revelatory 21-point performance in 19 minutes against the Celtics on Saturday night, a 98-95 Knicks victory. And the roadblocks in his way have fallen to the wayside; or at the very least, have wobbled enough to make it worth it for the Knicks to keep Copeland around.
Stoudemire still hasn't played in the preseason after hurting his knee in practice last week. The injury is supposed to be minor, but it was also supposed to keep him out of one practice, and that has now stretched several days beyond into two games. Considering that Stoudemire once missed all but three games of a season with a knee injury, assuming Stoudemire will be fine requires him to return to action and prove it.
Then there's Wallace, who had been retired for two years, and who signed late last month, but still hasn't been cleared to participate in scrimmages, for undisclosed reasons.
The two power forwards don't have a ton of time to get out there and get ready for the regular season; that November 1 date with the Nets is a little over two weeks away.
Then there's Anthony, who made it clear last week that he really doesn't want to play power forward. Considering the way the Knicks have fashioned their decisions around keeping Anthony happy since acquiring him, that probably precludes a meaningful number of minutes for Anthony at the position, despite his success there.
So at the moment, the only given the Knicks have at power forward is Kurt Thomas, who just turned 40, and averaged just 15 minutes per game last season. Copeland looms as not a luxury, but potentially essential for the Knicks.
He certainly took advantage of his opening on Saturday. A few more games like that, and the unthinkable idea of Chris Copeland as rotation member will be a reality.