Their first practice of the season finishing, the Knicks gathered in a circle for a song.
“Happy Birthday to you!” they sang to center Tyson Chandler, who turned 30 on Tuesday.
“I was feeling young until today,” Chandler said.
He still is, compared to some of his new teammates.
The Knicks went the veteran route in the offseason — really veteran. They added a forward who turns 40 this week, a 39-year-old guard, and are soon expected to have two 38-year-old frontcourt reserves. Oh, and one of their rookies is 35.
Assuming 38-year-old Rasheed Wallace ends his retirement and signs with the Knicks this week, as expected; their 13-man rotation would average 32 years and 240 days old, the oldest in NBA history, according to research by STATS, LLC.
“I don’t think so,” Chandler said, noting that the Dallas Mavericks team he helped to win the 2011 title averaged nearly 30 years of age.
“Obviously, we’ve got some guys a little over that mark, but you know what, the guys that we do have are going to bring great veteran leadership and they bring calmness around the team that we didn’t have before, and it’s only going to benefit us. In order to win in this league, you’ve got to have veterans.”
Kurt Thomas, a former Knick reacquired along with Raymond Felton from Portland, will turn 40 on Thursday. Jason Kidd will get there next March 23, born just a few months before the Knicks won their most recent championship.
Marcus Camby returns for his second stint with the Knicks at 38, and Argentine point guard Pablo Prigioni finally comes to the NBA at 35.
Just the way coach Mike Woodson wants it after starting with a young Atlanta Hawks team in his first NBA head coaching opportunity.
“That was fun, but I think the fact that I got this veteran team, it’s going to make life a little bit more easier because they’ve been around and they know how to play,” Woodson said. “And I’ve just got to pace them and direct them and put them in the right position.”
Woodson is doing that partly by only holding one practice a day during training camp. That’s not entirely due to the Knicks’ age, because he said he’d already stopped believing in the usefulness of two-a-days.
He does believe in veterans and doesn’t think he had enough of them last season, particularly in the frontcourt behind Chandler and Amare Stoudemire. Camby and Thomas address that and bring the defensive-minded mindset that Woodson favors.
“It’s veteran teams that are winning titles, and I think what we tried to do here is assemble enough talent on the team for that, ‘What if?’” Woodson said. “If this guy gets hurt, maybe he can fill in.”
Plagued by injuries early in his career, Camby has become stronger as the years went on and enters his 17th season, with Chandler saying he believes the No. 2 pick in the 1996 draft can get to 20. Kidd, who was with Chandler on the Mavs’ title team before leaving for New York this summer, is set for his 19th season.
He is expected to serve as the backup to Felton, but the likely future Hall of Famer said he’s prepared for a bigger role if given.
“I’m in the best shape probably in the last five years,” Kidd said, “so I feel great and if I have to play a lot of minutes, I could do that.”
The Knicks have watched the Boston Celtics rule their division in recent years, so they see the value of solid veterans. They insist they aren’t too old, general manager Glen Grunwald saying Monday that he feels the Knicks “didn’t get older, we feel we got more experienced and better.”
If the old guys stay healthy, the Knicks will be able to fill some holes in their roster. If not, it will only create a new set of problems.
Chandler is counting on it to work.
“All of those guys are bringing a different element to this team that we didn’t have last year,” he said. “We had a lot of young guys. We were all over the place. We won basketball games, it was exciting, we had our ups and downs, but it wasn’t consistent. Veterans like this bring consistency and that’s ultimately what’s going to get us to win basketball games.”