In the beginning of the season, Amar’e Stoudemire looked like dead weight. Stoudemire was slow, floor-bound, inefficient, seemingly ill-fitting of an NBA roster. Stoudemire’s minutes for the New York Knicks were so bad, people contemplated removing his minutes and games restrictions, letting him play until he got injured, and then rolling forward. Seriously — these were suggestions that could be found on Twitter.
However, after slowly upping his allowed minutes while letting him play in more games, Stoudemire has found his rhythm. Enough that Woodson and the Knicks have decided to toss away the minutes restrictions. Stoudemire will play as long as he and Woodson see fit.
So far, in the month of December, Stoudemire is rolling. In five games, he averaging 22 minutes, 12.2 points on 71% shooting, 4.4 rebounds, and 1 block per game. Last night, in a victory over the Chicago Bulls, Stoudemire was the hero, knocking down a jumper from the top of the key as the Knicks were clawing their way from a Chicago surge. While the Knicks stumbled and fumbled their way through isolations on offense, it was Stoudemire who came through with the clutch jumper off swift ball movement. And on defense — hardly Stoudemire’s forte — he came up with great rotations and good contests to keep the Bulls from scoring some easy baskets.
The 30 minutes Stoudemire logged last night were the most of the season, and they also came on the second night of a back-to-back. This is encouraging as Stoudemire had, arguably, his best game of the season in going for 14 points on 7-11 shooting, 9 rebounds, an assist and a block. However, the Knicks still need to be careful to monitor his minutes. Recall last season, Woodson let Stoudemire play for longer than his minutes restrictions allowed when Stoudemire got on a roll in February, and it ended in disaster when he needed to undergo another knee surgery.
Nonetheless, the improvement of Stoudemire is much-needed. Despite back-to-back letdowns versus the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, the Knicks have won three of their last five games. The offense has shown some improvement, and Stoudemire has been one of the beneficiaries. In the midst of the Knicks’ nine-game losing streak, Stoudemire was one of the players to cal out the lack of ball movement, and to his credit, he’s played unselfishly and efficiently in recent games.
If the Knicks can continue to get solid play from Stoudemire going forward, it will be a major addition off the bench.
Follow Scott Davis on Twitter.