Originally posted on Knicks Journal  |  Last updated 8/25/12

After seeing NBA champion Tyson Chandler come to the Knicks and immediately elevate the team's defensive effort and mentality, it's no surprise fans were pleased to see Marcus Camby return to the Big Apple this offseason.

Prepared to backup Chandler next season (creating a very intense one-two punch on the defensive end), it was none other than Camby himself who helped anchor the Knicks' defense from 1998-2002. Still playing at a high level at 38 years old, it's arguable that he and Chandler collectively represent the strongest starter/backup defensive duo in the league.

Though it's normally not a good thing to be considered "a third-wheel," the Knicks and their fans should feel an immense amount of pride and excitement when recognizing Kurt Thomas as the team's third-string big man.

Currently the NBA's oldest active player (he'll be 40 in October), Thomas was also on the Knickerbocker squad that reached the NBA Finals in 1999.

Even in his "old" age, Thomas remains one of the league's most reliable players. He's still known to knock down that classic mid-range jumper with ease (he shot 47% from the field last season with the Blazers), and still has no qualms about sacrificing his body for the sake of the team.

The big man's gritty effort on the defensive end helps him fight for rebounds, block shots, and chase down loose balls on a nightly basis.

Though he spent last season in Portland, Thomas was even more the fan-favorite the season prior, in 2010-11 with the Bulls. He started 37 contests, filling in Joakim Noah, and even earned the nickname "Big Sexy" from Bulls' commentators. He averaged 4.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, and even shot 51% from the floor for Chicago, before embracing somewhat of a lesser role with the Blazers last season.

But expect Thomas to be trusted with decent minutes once again next season. Having donned orange and blue in the past, Thomas knows exactly how to succeed and embrace the special feeling that comes along with it, right in the heart of New York City.

With Jared Jeffries also involved in the trade that brought Thomas and Raymond Felton both back to New York, Thomas could very well fill a role similar to that of Jeffries'. It wouldn't be surprising to see the returning big man be granted a couple of starts here and there. His ability on the defensive end could earn him major minutes when the Knicks face a team with a big man like Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum.

While he's known for his defense, Thomas also stands to pass on his key to longevity to a star like Amar'e Stoudemire. With STAT having to deal with various injuries during his first two seasons in New York, it could prove immensely helpful for Thomas to talk with the six-time all-star about how to longer his career in the NBA. The elder statesman surely has some secrets as to to how to keep your body strong and staying ready and able, while at the same time, enduring the bump and bruises that come along with years of competition.

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