Usually when you are 30 years old and have been in the NBA for 10 years, you are what you are as a player. In the case of New York Knicks’ forward Amar’e Stoudemire that means he is a good-sometimes great- offensive player who is a liability at the defensive end of the floor.
At this point of his career, it is a little late to change that now, but that won’t stop Stoudemire from trying.
Stoudemire recently told ESPN’s Jared Zwerling that he has never been taught how to play defense before, a shot at former Knicks’ head coach Mike D’Antoni.
Knicks’ head coach Mike Woodson has often said that he isn’t worried about Stoudemire’s offensive game, but is more concerned about STAT at the defensive end of the floor. After watching Stoudemire’s debut Tuesday night in a loss against the Portland Trail Blazers, there is a reason to be concerned.
That’s something Stoudemire said he realizes and is something he has never learned in his decade long NBA career.
“I think just having a defensive coach for the first time in my career is going to help,” he told Zwerling. “I’ve never been taught defense in my whole career, so to now have a coach that actually teaches defense and teaches strategies, and knows positioning and posture, how to guard different plays, it’s going to be helpful. I’m going to take it as a challenge, and I’m going to accept the challenge and try to improve as a player.”
It would be unfair to expect Stoudemire to have it all figured out in his first game of the season, but he is going to have to get better defensively or it will be hard to get major minutes.
Opposing teams will do exactly what the Blazers did and attack him at will.
To be fair, Stoudemire looked confused.
He didn’t guard the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop plays well as he gave LaMarcus Aldridge too much space and the All-Star forward killed him. By the time STAT reacted, Aldridge drained jumpers.
Then the more athletic J.J. Hickson attacked Stoudemire at will and got to the rim easily. But there were several times where Stoudemire completely lost sight of Hickson and the result was easy baskets.
The Knicks have to get better defensively as a team and Stoudemire is a big part of that.
He doesn’t have to become an All-defensive team player; Stoudemire just has to get much better.
Conventional thinking would suggest that it is a little late for Stoudemire to learn defense at this point in his career.
But STAT is a player who has been through a lot in his career and persevered through it all. If he is committed to learning to play defense, I have to think that he will do exactly that.
Sometimes it is better late than never.
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