Amar’e Stoudemire came to New York with a lot of pressure. The keys to the Knicks franchise were handed to him with a five-year, $100 million contract. With it came hope and big expectations. Not only did he embrace the challenge, he delivered.
Some were skeptical of the contract which the Knicks gave him, but for at least one season, Amar’e was worth the money. Stoudemire put the Knicks back on the map and made them relevant again. The Garden was jam packed every night and gave Knick fans a similar feeling to the one they used to have in the early 90s.
The Knicks made the playoffs for the first time since 2004 and had their first winning record since 2000. For the season, Stoudemire averaged over 25 points and eight rebounds, shot over 50% from the field, was a starter for the Eastern Conference All Stars, and made second team All NBA.
It is hard to get on Stoudemire for his postseason performance. He was great in Game 1, but then left Game 2 with the back injury. It was clear he was not close to 100 percent in games 3 or 4, causing him to be a shell of himself. There is no doubt in my mind; a healthy Stoudemire would have changed the entire series. The Knicks might not have beat Boston, but they would not have been swept.
Despite how successful Stoudemire was in his first year with the Knicks, it was not perfect. There were two Stoudemires. We had the Stoudemire before the Carmelo trade and the Stoudemire after the Carmelo trade. The Stoudemire before the Carmelo trade was much better.
The Stoudemire before the Carmelo trade was a leader and the go to guy on the team. Surrounded by a very young team, he was forced to take on the role of leader for the first time in his career. Off the court, he organized get-togethers with teammates, and on the court the team looked to him to take over when the game was on the line. Stoudemire even played some defense, which was a major knock on him back in Phoenix. He also developed a great chemistry with point guard Raymond Felton, who seemed to get him the basketball in the right spot all the time.
The Amar’e after the Carmelo trade differed too much to Carmelo. The numbers prove it as his scoring average went down to 23.4 in 25 games after the trade. It seemed like it became Carmelo’s team. It was Carmelo getting the ball the majority of the time on offense and in crunch time of games. In Game 1 of the playoffs against the Celtics, Stoudemire dominated the fourth quarter yet did not get the ball the last two minutes of the game and Carmelo took the shot at the end.
Aside with continuing to develop chemistry with Carmelo, Stoudemire needs a pass first point guard who can give him the ball around the basket. Chauncey Billups is not that guy. Billups is a shoot first point guard and struggles to get his teammates involved in the game. Stoudemire will never achieve his highest level of play with Billups at the point.
There were too many times after the trade, when Stoudemire got the ball on the wing and forced a one on one move, where he would eventually turn the ball over. When playing with Felton, he and Stoudemire began to master the pick and roll offense. Felton constantly set Stoudemire up for wide open jump shots or dunks. Remember this: Stoudemire played most of his career in Phoenix with a great point guard in Steve Nash. Nash was a big part of Stoudemire’s success. We saw that success continue when playing with a good point guard in Felton. Will we see it again?
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