Kurt Thomas: 'I never thought I'd play at 40'

October, 5, 2012
10/05/12
10:00
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- When Kurt Thomas was in New York during the 1998-99 season, he told teammate Herb Williams (now a Knicks assistant) that he couldn’t believe he was still playing at 40 years old.

Thomas is smiling now because on Thursday he turned 40 -- coincidentally, his jersey number -- and he's surprised that he made it this far. He's now the oldest player in the NBA.

[+] EnlargeKurt Thomas
Ray Amati/NBAE/Getty ImagesKurt Thomas' uniform number matches his age.
"I never thought I'd play at 40," he said. "I still enjoy competing and I'm happy for it every day. I never think about retiring. Until no one wants my services anymore, I'll start thinking about that. But until then, I'm always focused on the next season."

Thomas said he didn't think he'd ever return to New York. Now that he's here, he's confident his game hasn't changed much since he and Williams went to the 1999 Finals. While Thomas might only play around 10 minutes per game, he'll provide solid defense and midrange shooting.

"I might have lost a half a step, but not a full step," he said. "I feel my game hasn't changed in 10, 12 years. You may think I'm old; that's fine. But when I get out there on the floor, I don't think you will see that."

Mike Woodson will still have to monitor Thomas' practice time. That also goes for Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Pablo Prigioni and possibly Rasheed Wallace. But Woody has been impressed with how the extreme veterans have handled the first few days of training camp.

"It's kind of nice to see," he said after practice on Thursday. "These guys are older, and I've got to be a little more privy to how I push them in terms of practice. But for the most part, they've been hanging in there and doing everything I've asked them to do."

While Thomas has been back in familiar practice territory since joining the Knicks, it has been a first for Camby. His previous workout location with the team was at SUNY Purchase.

During media day, Camby gave a few reasons why he wanted to end his career in New York: He knew Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith from their time together in Denver; he wanted to reunite with many family and friends; he thought he could contribute even at 38; and he liked how the Knicks resembled his '99 veteran-laden team.

While you might look at that older squad and say it benefited from the 50-game season (due to the lockout), this year's aging bunch can look forward to more adequate rest with the full schedule ahead.

Overall, fans should be encouraged their squad is "more seasoned." Not "old."

"That could be a positive because veteran guys win championships," an agent who has worked with former Knicks players told ESPNNewYork.com. "That could be a positive for them if those guys really buy into the system. The only negative could be if those guys are aged and really aren't going to be able to compete on a high level every night."

While day-to-day injuries are inevitable, like Smith's sore left ankle on Thursday, what matters more is how the guys are jelling and feeling come May.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Carmelo Anthony
PTS AST STL MIN
27.4 3.1 1.2 38.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsC. Anthony 8.1
AssistsP. Prigioni 3.5
StealsI. Shumpert 1.2
BlocksA. Bargnani 1.2