The New York Knicks are the NBA's oldest team, with an average age of 31.2 years. Age took its first toll on the team this week, when 39-year-old Jason Kidd sat out the team's past two games with back spasms. Though the Knicks as a whole are highly experienced and can fare well without Kidd, this is only the beginning of the Knicks' potential troubles.
The Knicks may be 10-4 on the season, but Kidd's injury is the first sign that they are anything but invincible. Kidd was averaging eight points and 2.1 steals per game for them, and that's great production for someone Kidd's age, and a big loss for New York.
Not only is Kidd one of the Knicks' top defensive players, but he is also one of the best leaders in the NBA. The Knicks already crumbled without him against the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night, and the lack of his presence was even felt in Wednesday's win against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Yes, Ronnie Brewer and Pablo Prigioni did a fine job stepping up in Kidd's absence, but they cannot be relied upon long-term. Brewer is a defensive player whose offensive game borders on the nightmarish, and Prigioni is a 35-year-old rookie who can play defense but is still adjusting from Europe's run and gun game to coach Mike Woodson's isolation system.
This makes it all the more important that second-year guard Iman Shumpert return fully recovered from ACL surgery. Kidd was only in the starting lineup to fill Shumpert's spot and will likely come off the bench once the 22-year-old returns.
This still leaves the Knicks with a big hole in the lineup right now. Shumpert isn't expected back for at least another month. His rehab has gone well thus far, but there is always the possibility of a setback.
That is just another reason why the Knicks are in trouble so long as Kidd is out of the lineup. Like Shumpert, he provides pesky defense and three-point shooting (though Shumpert is still developing the latter skill), and the Knicks don't have anyone who can step up and consistently fill that void while both are out.
Also, as was noted before, Kidd is 39 years old. This isn't the first time his back has bothered him, as it flared up last season with the Dallas Mavericks. Due to his back and other injuries, he was limited to just 48 games.
Even if he returns to the lineup tomorrow night against the Washington Wizards, chances are that Kidd will miss more time down the stretch with various aches and pains. Without a suitable guard to step in for him (at least until Shumpert comes back) the Knicks are going to have to work even harder with each passing game to help bring home the win.
It should also be noted that the Knicks are bound to see more of their players get injured over the course of the season. Be it just day-to-day aches and pains or long-term injuries, they need to be prepared for them.
Unfortunately, with the age that's on this roster, there is no reliable youth that can step up and take control down the stretch. Come playoff time, this could be a problem.
That said, the Knicks had better start training harder than before, because at this point nobody can afford to get hurt with Kidd gone. This is a team that can go far in the playoffs, but injuries can snuff that flame out quickly.
Kidd's injury is just a reminder as to that, so his teammates (particularly the older ones) had better play carefully.