The Knicks are 7-1 so far this season, and they are doing it without their 99 million dollar man. Amar’e Stoudemire has only played one game for the Knicks this season (a preseason game) after having surgery to clear out a cyst in his repaired micro-fractured knee. This was supposed to be STAT’s comeback year after a not-so-great last season, and he worked all summer to prove that he can still play a crucial role on this team.
Stoudemire got into even better shape than his typical athletic build this past summer, and during the process worked to continue losing some of the weight he put on the summer before last when strengthening his back. Possibly his most important improvement made this summer was working for 2 weeks with Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston. Olajuwon has worked with stars like Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, and Lebron James in order to improve their post game down low.
STAT’s potential new post moves add a new area to his game, and may allow him to extend a career that was built on athletic moves to the basket. An arsenal of post moves will also allow Woodson to play him deeper down in the paint than ‘Melo which will create better spacing when the two of them play together. If he can come back from injury with those new “jewels,” as he calls them, then he will play a very important and effective role in the offense.
The problem, of course, is that fans see that the team is winning without him. Analysts see that ‘Melo and his team of veteran buddies are getting it done in a big way. The Coaches are seeing how well the ball is moving without STAT needing to get his shots up. And with all of these observations come the scary thought that maybe STAT cannot work on this team. Many think that it’s true, but until now we haven’t had this much concrete proof.
Just imagine: The Knicks are 20-8 when Stoudemire comes back, and then a few weeks later we are 22-16. The media will call for Stoudemire’s head, the fans will boo him, but the worst thing that could happen will be if he loses confidence in himself to help this team. If Stoudemire becomes unmotivated and unhappy, then it will be hard to argue that a championship is within reach.
As good as ‘Melo has been these past 8 games, and in his career for that matter, the Knicks will not win without an additional strong scoring threat. J.R. Smith has proven that he can be efficient so far this season, but not to the level of efficiency that STAT has had in his career (his career average in FG % is 53%). The additional offensive threat will also help when ‘Melo sits with foul trouble or for a breather, because as good as Sheed and Smith have played, there is no arguing that an in-shape and healthy Stoudemire is better for the offense.
The other big question mark with Stoudemire is his defense. Coach Woodson, along with most of the team, have emphasized that defense is key to this team. ‘Melo has been seen diving on the floor, blocking shots, and playing good hard on-ball defense. If ‘Melo can do it, can Amar’e? The answer is most likely no. The sad truth is that at this point in his career he is not learning many new tricks. What will be key is if he can put effort into both sides of the floor, and rebound well. The Knicks have only out-rebounded their opponents once this season, and adding a player who can grab 8 night in night out will be very important.
If Amar’e doesn’t fit with this team pretty instantly after his return, then it won’t be too far fetched to imagine him being traded even as soon as the trade deadline. The argument that the team won’t get enough due to his bad contract is not valid, because the team does not need equal talent in return as they are doing very well without his help. The other option is that Stoudemire will come back and play with the team effectively, surprising many, and lead the team deep into the playoffs. Knick fans, keep your fingers crossed that the steel kneed man can figure himself out.