Amar’e Stoudemire has been on a windy road during his time in New York. When he signed here, he was our savior. When we traded for ‘Melo, he was our number 2. Last season, he was our burden. And this year, he’s been our seventh man? It’s interesting to look back at all the different roles STAT has played since joining the Knicks, and how he has changed as a player. Sadly, yesterday the team announced that STAT would be out for 6 weeks due to a right knee debridement he needs later this week.
From the face of the franchise to the face of the bench. Stoudemire has battled through injuries for a sizable amount of his time in New York. He has had back problems, a self-inflicted hand laceration, and more recently his surgically repaired and uninsured knees have been bothering him. He had been playing terrific as of late, and seemed to be in top form. He accepted his role on the bench after returning from injury, and impressed many with his poise and play.
He’s averaging 14.2 PPG and 5.0 RPG, and his shooting percentage is the 2nd highest of his career at 57.7%. These are impressive numbers when you consider he plays just under 24 minutes a game. When you look at his stats per 40 minutes, he is averaging 24 points and 9 rebounds, which would make people think twice about calling him past his prime and a non-elite player.
Amar’e’s play has given a huge boost to the bench, and allowed for Coach Woodson to have a player to run his offense through when ‘Melo is resting. The bench has recently been playing a factor in wins due to the increased strength of its play. J.R Smith, Steve Novak, Pablo Prigioni, newly signed Kenyon Martin, and newly benched Jason Kidd have played extremely well while the team went 6-2 in the last eight games.
With Amar’e gone, the bench will need to continue their improved production, especially while ‘Melo is still out with his knee injury. That means that players like Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby need to step up their game and anchor down the front court. Last night against the Jazz, they did exactly what they were needed to do. K-Mart had 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 steals, while Camby did a little bit of everything recording an assist, steals, a block, and a rebound.
Steve Novak and J.R. Smith also had big games last night. Smith finished with a game-high 24 points, 6 rebound, and 3 assists. Novak, who has had an up and down season while struggling to get open looks, scored 20 points while hitting 5 3-pointers. Pablo Prigioni continued his excellent play as possibly one of the league’s best third-string point guards, as he had 5 assists and 5 rebounds.
If the Knicks want to maintain their second seed ranking in the East, then they are going to need continued production from the bench as they close out the season and wait for STAT to return. The offense had grown stagnant, and opposing defenses were easily figuring out that the Knicks’ offense was a one man show. If the bench and other role players can play well, then it puts increased pressure on the other teams and allows for the Knicks to have improved ball movement and execution.
Amar’e Stoudemire will be missed on this team. We lose our main low-post presence, and a vocal leader on the floor. Hopefully, the team can unite, and return to how they played earlier this season without him when they were one of the top teams in the league.