This was quite unexpected. I'd read earlier in the year that Bender was making a comeback, and that Knick GM Donnie Walsh would be keeping tabs on him. That was all the news we got until this signing. I have no idea what type of shape Bender is in, or where his game is at, whether he can make a significant contribution to this team, or whether this is just a feel-good story designed to get NY some solid PR.
Bender, now 28, retired in 2006 due to chronic injuries that derailed his promising career. He was a 7 foot swingman drafted out of high school, another player in the "next KG" mold. If you asked me what current player he reminds me most of, I'd say Sacramento's Donte Greene. Greene is 6'11" and notably starting at SG for the Kings right now, and that's the type of player Bender was - a 7 foot guard that could block shots extremely well due to his height and athleticism.
This is why the shape Bender is in is so important. I don't expect he will fly for dunks like he used to, but if he's maintained his shot blocking ability, he is essentially a better shooting Jared Jeffries. Presuming Bender's slower now, he could be more similar to Yi Jianlian now - a faceup PF with decent quickness but a limited post game. In the grand scheme of things, we're looking at a player who is clearly a reserve going forward, and probably a 3rd string. But not every player has to be an impact player. Sometimes, they just need to remind us that hard work pays off, even when there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
Here are my tenative ratings for Bender.
Years Pro: 3
Jersey Number: 24
2nd Pos: SF