12:00 pm Oct. 18, 2012
The depth of the New York Knicks was the greatest positive that came from the team's busy offseason. That depth came from primarily acquiring veteran players, some of whom are quite veteran indeed.
The early result has been a test of that depth, with injuries creating some questions for coach Mike Woodson to answer now that the season is less than two weeks away.
First, the good news: Ronnie Brewer, acquired to be a better defensive version of Landry Fields, returned to practice Tuesday. He'd missed training camp due to knee surgery, so getting him back and playing allows the Knicks to utilize him as starting shooting guard, with J.R. Smith coming off the bench.
The problem with that is, Smith is now on the shelf. In typical Knicks fashion, the team said Smith would miss just one game with a sore ankle on Saturday. By Wednesday, Smith still wasn't practicing, he was seen in a walking boot, and told the Post that his injury was, in fact, to his Achilles.
Without Smith, the Knicks are in the position of supporting Brewer, who will need to work back gradually due to his recent surgery, with Mychel Thompson, who is out of position at shooting guard and would be unlikely to even make the team based on performance alone. Not a big deal during the preseason, but a potential problem for the regular season, when rosters need to be set.
Neither Brewer nor Smith are among the older veterans the Knicks acquired this offseason, though some of those players are question marks, too.
Marcus Camby, acquired to back up Tyson Chandler at center, has yet to practice due to a calf injury. The injury was originally supposed to keep Camby out 7-10 days; he's missed more than two weeks, though he plans to return next week. The Knicks really don't have a backup center without Camby; Henry Sims is in camp, but he simply doesn't have the strength to defend N.B.A. centers. Like Thompson, he probably wouldn't make the team without some emergency need. No problem now; but the season is less than two weeks away.
If the Knicks ultimately need to keep Sims and/or Thompson, it will mean they need to cut a 14th or 15th guy who could potentially help the team and play at a higher level. Someone like John Shurna, an elite shooter, or even Chris Copeland, who has been the strongest nonguaranteed player in camp, could be lost as a result.
It was roster shakeouts like this that cost the Houston Rockets Jeremy Lin the first time they had him.
So these injuries are preseason nuisances, for now. But they need to go away soon, or they could affect the amount of talent the Knicks can keep around all season long.