It probably wasn’t the express intent of Glen Grunwald when building his New York Knicks roster this year, but there came a point in Monday’s game against the Warriors where Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin were in the lineup at the same time, and then you think to yourself “Wait a minute, don’t they also have Marcus Camby on the bench somewhere?” Suddenly, it all comes flooding back to you — the sea of tattoos, masked in light blue and yellow, the kamikaze offense and one-on-five defense, the sight of George Karl looking contemplative and kind of sad on the sideline — that’s right, Grunwald had reunited the 2008 Denver Nuggets. All the Knicks needed was to coax Anthony Carter or Allen Iverson out of retirement, and they could have played a full five-man unit.
It’s fun to see these kind of unplanned five-year reunions in the NBA. Not only does it remind you of the old teams now forgotten, but you also just imagine the guys embracing like old college buddies on their new squad, falling back into old habits in the locker room, sharing inside jokes that leave outsiders confused and angry, forming their own little clique on team buses and flights. It’s like when they used to bring old “Cheers” alums onto “Frasier” sporadically, or when the cast of “Veronica Mars” assemble at an L.A. Kings game for no discernible reason. Who knows if it actually translates to on-court production — the first returns from the Knicks this year wouldn’t lend much credence to that theory — but for the fans, it’s just good times.
So if the Knicks have the ’08 Nuggets on lock, what other memorable squads of recent years can we reassemble? I tried it with five teams from the last decade, reuniting them on specific contemporary teams (assuming next offseason), in ways that I could see being at least mildly plausible. For this exercise, you need at least four players from the old squad, and at least one had to already be on the new squad. Some were natural, some took a little stretching, but all would be f—ing awesome if they actually came to fruition. Check out my tearful reunions below, and let me know if you can think of any other good ones. (I tried but failed to find good homes for the ’06 Suns and the ’10 Wizards, and would be grateful for good ideas for those.)
1. 2004 Detroit Pistons — 2014 Memphis Grizzlies
Pieces in Place: Tayshaun Prince
Necessary Moves: Sign Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton in free agency, coax Ben Wallace out of retirement.
Explanation: This one seems easy enough. The Grizzlies are already ’04 Pistons-esque in their primarily defensive mindset, and relatively starless, ball-movement-based offense. They need some stability and veteran experience in the backcourt second unit, so Billups takes care of that. They need a scoring guard and shooter to be an additional half-court weapon, so that’s Rip, assuming the Bulls decline his option next year (which they almost certainly will). And without a true backup center on the roster (besides Dexter Pittman), they could probably use Ben Wallace (who never officially even retired, as far as I can tell) to spell Marc Gasol in the middle for stretches.
Of the four guys, Prince would probably still be the most impactful — he’s the only one who was drafted in the 21st century — but they could all play a part for the Grizz and remind fans of the impossibly tight-knit squad that made six straight conference finals in the ’00s. And if Sheed’s feet are feeling up to snuff and he wants to come along for the ride too, the more the merrier.
2. 2007 Golden State Warriors — 2014 Philadelphia 76ers
Pieces in Place: Jason Richardson
Necessary Moves: Sign Monta Ellis, Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson in free agency.
Explanation: Well if they’re not going to be good — which they’re probably not going to be unless they re-sign a suddenly healthy Andrew Bynum, which hahahahahah — they may as well be fun. And who was more fun than the ’07 Warriors? Anyway, the Sixers are locked into Richardson, but they need a sixth man to replace Nick Young (and really, to replace Lou Williams), and assuming he came cheap enough, that could easily be Ellis, who the Sixers had been rumored to be in discussions for before. They also need a backup and veteran mentor for Jrue Holiday at the point, and Boom Dizzle (assuming his legs are operational) could be good for that. And the Sixers have also been badly lacking in toughness in recent years, and if Captain Jack can’t help you with that, ain’t nobody gonna.
Not that I’m necessarily encouraging the team that I root for 82 games a season to make these moves. But hey, if it’s between this and four years of Al Jefferson at $15 mil a year, I know which one I’m opting for.
3. 2007 Utah Jazz — 2014 Brooklyn Nets
Pieces in Place: Deron Williams, the ghost of Mehmet Okur
Necessary Moves: Sign Derek Fisher in free agency, trade for Carlos Boozer, sign-and-trade for Andrei Kirilenko
Long as we’re reuniting the ’07 Warriors, may as well take a shot at the team that beat them in the playoffs. Derek Fisher might take his annual Veteran Leadership spot on this Nets squad, though he’ll probably guilt his way out of Brooklyn a couple months into the season. Boozer to the Nets almost seems too perfect, since the Bulls would likely be willing to shed the remainder of his deal in exchange for Kris Humphries’ expiring and some table scraps while Mikhail Prokhorov is one of the few owners who might be willing to take on Booze’s hefty contract. And speaking of Prokhorov, fake GMs have been trying to get him reunited with his Russian comrade Kirilenko for years now, and the Nets could badly use an offensive upgrade over Gerald Wallace on the wing.
This would actually be kind of a fun team to watch, wouldn’t it? It’s just about the only way I can picture myself enjoying Nets games the next couple years, anyway.
4. 2008 Knicks — 2014 Golden State Warriors
Pieces in Place: David Lee
Necessary Moves: Sign Nate Robinson and Eddy Curry in free agency, trade for Wilson Chandler
With five years’ retrospect, it’s hard not to have a little nostalgia for those Isiah Thomas-led Knick teams. Yes, they were awful and depressing, but damned if they weren’t totally unforgettable. Anyway, it’s long been destined that David Lee and Nate Robinson would play together again, but David Lee is obviously much tougher to move, so let’s get Nate back to Golden State, where he had pretty decent success a season ago, and where there might be an opening for a second-unit scorer with Jarret Jack possibly pricing himself out of Golden State’s future with his excellent play this season.
Then let’s get Wilson out of Denver, where they have a glut of small forwards, and to GSW, where they might be looking for more consistent production at small forward than rookie Harrison Barnes has been giving them — they might be able to get Chandler for Richard Jefferson’s expiring and a pick. And Eddy Curry … well, it never hurts to have too many backup centers behind Andrew Bogut and Andris Biedrins. (You can sub Jared Jefferies in here if you prefer.)
By the way, on a mildly unrelated note: Fred Jones was on the ’08 Knicks (and played nearly 2,000 minutes)?? I watched a whole lot of Knicks that year, and I have absolutely no recollection of him even being on that team. Five years is a long time, I guess.
5. 2010 Mavericks — 2014 New York Knicks
Pieces in Place: Jason Kidd, Tyson Chandler
Necessary Moves: Sign DeShawn Stevenson in free agency, trade for Shawn Marion
Yes, the Knicks are so stocked with veterans that they can reunite two classic 21st-century teams without breaking a sweat. They’re probably not gonna get the most important guy (Dirk, not likely to ever leave Dallas for any reason), but you can get just about any other key player on that team. The Hawks will probably decline DeShawn Stevenson’s option, wanting to keep max money for free agency, and the Mavs might want to move Shawn Marion in the hopes of landing a Dwight Howard and/or Chris Paul. If not one of those guys, maybe they could pry J.J. Barea away from the Timberwolves or get Brendan Haywood from the Bobcats. Still, Marion and Stevenson are the ones that just seem like they’re gonna be Knicks at some point, y’know?
Worth noting: The Knicks are also already halfway to reuniting the ’02 Nets (J-Kidd and K-Mart), the ’07 Suns (Kurt Thomas and Amar’e Stoudemire) and even the ’10 Clippers (Marcus Camby and Steve Novak). What a team.