Despite knowing full well that changes had to be made following two failed seasons, Phil Jackson also understands the importance of team continuity. If nothing else, the tail end of last season was used to evaluate both the good and the bad. In doing so, Jackson and Co. not only came to understand who to let go of, but also who to keep.
Of course, Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis are the team's headlining attractions. Lance Thomas was rewarded for his hard work and loyalty with a more lucrative long term contract. A positive locker room presence and respected veteran, Sasha Vujacic will also be returning to New York this coming season.
Under the radar, however, as a returning player is Kyle O'Quinn. With three years remaining on the contract he signed last summer, perhaps some have taken for granted that the Queens native is coming back. O'Quinn's playing time was sporadic last season. As such, consistency in his efforts was hard to find, despite some promise. The Knicks could have opted to deal him for a small draft asset and/or simply moved him as a salary dump in favor of another free agent signee.
But they didn't. After reading Basketball Insiders' latest profile on the 26-year-old, perhaps it's easier to understand why not.
A junkyard dog on the court and a jokester off of it, O'Quinn is highly regarded by just about any teammate he's ever had. Someone who makes people smile and laugh in a light-hearted locker room but still knows to bring the energy when a game begins, is valuable to have. After watching the Knicks endure the past two seasons, it's obvious they deserve comedic relief every once and a while. O'Quinn undoubtedly brings that to the table.
His contract is very reasonable following this summer's explosion of the NBA market. What's more, he's still young enough to dig deeper and see what else is there. He's obviously a gritty defender and rebounder, and occasionally displayed a decent midrange jumper, if New York can incorporate into the offense a bit more.
In addition to his former Magic teammates, Cleanthony Early also sang O'Quinn's praises in the aforementioned feature. Currently without a contract and certainly not guaranteed a roster spot, perhaps Early himself is more likely to begin the season in Westchester. Also discussed in the piece is Kevin Seraphin and his strong love of social media, which should be an indication (albeit it, a small one) as to why there's value in bringing a guy like O'Quinn back instead.
His return is a sign of team continuity, because he could have been easily dealt otherwise. O'Quinn is a high character guy whose demeanor is something others (including Anthony, for that matter) benefit from.