Amar’e Stoudemire was once the savior that brought the Knicks out of the darkest time in their history, but a lot has changed since he signed with New York in 2010. Stoudemire is preparing to return from his second knee debridement of the season, but people are skeptical that this is good news for the team. The Knicks have not played their best basketball with Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, and Tyson Chandler all on the floor together. This season though, we saw a different STAT who may be able to come up big in round two of the playoffs.
After working over the summer with Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, Stoudemire has improved his low-post game in order to fit in better with ‘Melo on the court. In the games he played this season, we rarely saw STAT taking his patented mid-range jumper or rolling to the basket. Instead, while coming off the bench, Stoudemire put himself in the position to score from the post, which allowed ‘Melo the room he needs to score from the elbows and isolate.
His improved post game, as well as his willingness to sacrifice playing time for the sake of the team, allowed him to have one of his most efficient seasons in his career. STAT averaged 14.2 ppg and 5.0 rpg, while shooting 58% from the field and 81% from the free throw line, in only 23.5 minutes. He played in just 29 games due to a knee debridement prior to the start of the season and another knee debridement 29 games into his return.
Stoudemire may be able to bring a boost to the Knicks against the Pacers, especially if he can reproduce his success from earlier this season. The Pacers are a big, defensive minded team that rebound the ball well and grind out wins. Adding a low post player like STAT to our offense will help to add an additional layer to the game plan, as well as force the Pacers to think twice before doubling ‘Melo. Additionally, Stoudemire’s height will allow the team to match up better against the bigger front court the Pacers have and give the Knicks another guy who can rebound the ball.
One big question mark that remains is where STAT’s minutes will come from. Coach Mike Woodson has said that Kenyon Martin’s minutes will not be affected by Stoudemire’s return, so who will be the odd man out? My money is on Steve Novak (who has been struggling with his shot and back spasms) and Chris Copeland being forced out of playing time. If STAT truly performs, he may even get some minutes from ‘Melo, who is currently playing a team-high 41 minutes per game and could use a small rest here and there.
Mike Woodson told the media yesterday that he is ruling out STAT for games one and two of the second round, but that he is hopeful to have him play in game 3 after getting practice time. The Knicks need to win their two games at home, and if Stoudemire can come back healthy and playing at the level he was earlier this season, then they may be able to steal a crucial game in Indiana.
STAT has dealt with injuries his entire career. He has been told countless times by the media that he won’t be the same, that he can’t return and be effective, that he screws up the chemistry of the team, etc. Each time he works hard to come back and prove them wrong, and don’t expect this time to be any different. Amar’e Stoudemire is determined and ready to make his impact on the 2013 NBA Playoffs, and hopefully he can help the Knicks beat the Pacers and brace themselves for the sizzling Miami Heat, who they are bound to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals.