Amar’e Stoudemire has taken his fair share of hits since arriving in New York from both injuries and the media. Isn’t it time we give him some credit? The power-forward has been on a tear as of late, all while playing within the offense and coming off the bench. He has scored in double digits in his last seven games without playing more than 30 minutes once, and never attempting more than 13 shots in a game.
Stoudemire is averaging modest numbers: 12.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 0.5 APG, and 1.4 TPG while shooting 55% from the field. The numbers stick out more when you realize he is playing just 22 minutes a game. Also, he has been sharing the court with Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony much more often recently, which is the exact scenario that has been accused of crippling his game. Conversely, he has thrived off the attention needed on ‘Melo, and uses his new post moves to perfection.
After working over the summer with Hakeem Olajuwon, STAT is finally reaping the rewards of his offseason work. He has been effective with his back to the basket, and has blasted his defender one-on-one. In his last 10 games, he is shooting an impressive 60% from the field. Playing in the post also allows him to share the floor more with Tyson Chandler, who has become the team’s main roll-man.
Aside from his elevated field goal percentage, the Knicks have also benefitted from his free-throw shooting. The Knicks aren’t a team that gets to the line that often, but Stoudemire is averaging 5 attempts per game, while connecting on 79% of them. The free throws help the team get some easy points, and allows Mike Woodson to give the ball to STAT and feel confident that he will produce.
STAT’s game hasn’t been perfect though. He has struggled staying in front of his defensive assignment, and his rebounding numbers could be a little bit better. In recent games, he has been more active around the basket defensively–blocking at least one shot in each of his last 4 games. Still, he has a ways to go on that side of the ball in order to be trusted without Chandler to cover for him.
Stoudemire’s slow return to prominence may be the last piece of the puzzle that culminates in a trip to the NBA Finals. He gives the Knicks another go-to scorer, and a big body who is decent on the boards and can protect the rim. He also requires the attention of defenses, and most teams are forced between playing ‘Melo and him one-on-one, doubling one of them and leaving the other open, or doubling both and leaving the perimeter three-point shooters open all night long.
The Knicks are currently in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference, 1.5 games behind the Heat. If they can hold their position in the standing, or overtake the Heat, then they will not face them until the Eastern Conference Finals. If the Knicks could pull off an upset, then they would be on their way to the Finals for the first time since 1999. To do this would no doubt need the entire team healthy, and operating at 100% efficiency.
Stoudemire’s improved play should only get better as the season continues, and he should be considered not an afterthought to this team’s title aspirations, but instead as a major cog in the gears of the New York Knicks.