New York Knicks General Manager Glen Grunwald said that the future is bright for the team with this season’s oldest National Basketball Association roster, which lost in the second round of the playoffs to the Indiana Pacers.
The Knicks finished the regular season 54-28, their highest win total in 16 years, and won a playoff series for the first time since 2000. Grunwald, coach Mike Woodson and Knicks players expressed optimism yesterday and today that they could build off what they accomplished this season.
“We’re all disappointed in how the season ended, but we’re not discouraged,” Grunwald told reporters today at the team’s practice facility in Tarrytown, New York. “We’re very excited about the opportunity here and the team that we assembled.”
New York will have limited financial flexibility to make roster changes, with at least seven players signed through the next two seasons, including almost $60 million per year in salary allotted to 28-year-old Carmelo Anthony and two 30-year-olds, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler. The league’s luxury tax threshold this season was $70.3 million, meaning teams were taxed for every dollar they paid players above that limit.
New York was the oldest team in the NBA this season with an average age of more than 31 heading into the playoffs, and had so many injuries during the season that Woodson said he often couldn’t hold practice. Grunwald said the team didn’t necessarily need to get younger.
“Age and experience was a big factor in our success,” he said, acknowledging that injuries are always a risk of that approach. “The crucial players are our core guys, and they’re in their prime.”
Anthony, the first Knicks player since Bernard King in 1985 to win the NBA scoring title, is under contract for $21.4 million next season and $23.3 million in 2014-15. He said yesterday that the team would improve in the offseason.
“I’m still excited about what’s here to come,” he said. “We as a team and as a unit will be better next year.”
Anthony, who turns 29 this month, also said he will have his left shoulder examined “in the next couple days” to determine whether there is damage that requires a medical procedure. He aggravated the injury in the team’s first round against the Boston Celtics and wore a sleeve over the arm for the rest of the playoffs.
The Knicks set an NBA record with 891 three-point baskets during the regular season and had the best turnover margin in the league, averaging three fewer than their opponents in winning a division title and earning the No. 2 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. The team won its first Atlantic Division title in 19 years.
Like Anthony, Chandler and Stoudemire, Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Steve Novak are all under contract for the next two seasons. Iman Shumpert, 22, is set to make $1.6 million next season, with a club option for 2014-15.
J.R. Smith may test free agency this offseason -- with a $2.9 million player option for next year -- yet the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year said last week that he wants to “retire a Knick.” Grunwald declined to comment today on the status of talks between Smith, 27, and the team.
Any changes to the Knicks’ roster will come at a time when many other Eastern Conference teams stand to improve heading into 2013-14. The Miami Heat are going for their second straight championship with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, while the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics next season will both probably have All-Star guards back from injury: Derrick Rose in Chicago and Rajon Rondo in Boston. The Pacers should have Danny Granger, their leading scorer from 2011-12, back from injury.
“I like the direction in which we’re headed,” Woodson said. “I just hope our fans stay patient with us and continue to believe in our team.”
The Knicks had a league-low 19.3 assists per game in the regular season, a number that dropped to 15.1 per game in the playoffs. New York’s offense also averaged 88.6 points per game in the playoffs, more than 11 points per game below their regular-season average of 100.
Shumpert, the youngest player on the roster, offered one of the harshest criticisms, calling the team’s playoff run a “failure.” He averaged 9.3 points, six rebounds and 1.1 steals per game in the playoffs, all higher than his regular-season averages.
“We have to hold each other accountable,” he said yesterday. “We were supposed to go farther and we didn’t. I’d say that’s a failure.”