There’s been a lot of talk about the reinvigorated 2014 New York Knicks. We’ve heard about Iman Shumpert’s terrific rise, Carmelo Anthony’s resurgence, and of course the “dramedy’ that is JR Smith. However, we haven’t heard enough about one bit player that’s worked his way into a major role and that’s Amar’e Stoudemire.
Six weeks ago when an infamous clip of Amar’e literally lost on defense went viral, he seemingly reached his nadir as a Knick and prompted me to explain why his days as Knick should be over. Since that embarrassing moment, Amar’e has not just worked himself into being a serviceable player, but also into being an impactful one as seen yesterday in Philadelphia scoring 21 points on 8 of 10 shooting with 5 boards to go with it. With numerous dunks, terrific hustle, and magnificent in the post shooting, it was almost like watching the Stat of old.
So what’s behind Stat’s recent resurrection? Up to the point of Stat’s embarrassing “lost on defense” moment I mentioned earlier, he was averaging 3.6 pts, 4 shot attempts on .39% shooting, 2.3 boards in 11 minutes of play. Paltry numbers for anyone let alone a $23M 12 year veteran that was supposed to be the anchor of this decade’s new Knicks. Since that moment Stat has dramatically improved his numbers to 11.2 pts, 8 shot attempts on .56% shooting, 5 boards, in 22 minutes of play.
Many people gave up on Amar’e but thankfully Coach Woodson was not one of them. Actually perhaps I’m giving too much credit to Woody since it was more because of Chandler’s injury than unwavering faith that lead to his minutes being doubled, but it seems all along the only thing Amar’e needed was something we already knew: patience coupled with more playing time. After all, Amar’e numbers all practically doubling with 100% more playing time seems pretty academic. At the time the rationale behind his mandated rest and minute restrictions was the need to preserve his health. On the contrary though, when looking at his numbers without much rest, Amar’e has actually performed much better.
According to NBA Stats, the more rest Stat gets, the more his numbers seem to recede. For instance, When Amar’e doesn’t have a day’s rest he has scored 13 points on 5.5 of 9.3 shooting (59%), grabbed 7.5 boards, with a -2.3 +/- in 24.5 mins. On one day’s rest he has scored 9.8 points on 4.1 of 8.3 shooting (49.6%), 4.5 boards, with a -4.8 +/- in 20.9 mins. On two day’s rest he has scored 9.3 points on 3.3 of 5.3 shooting, 3 boards, with a -6.0 +/- in 14.9 mins. The numbers get less impressive and suggest we might have been too worried about his health. More play seems to have really been what he has needed to return into being a valuable player.
Going back to what I wrote weeks ago, I wasn’t very hopeful his stale play would lead into more minutes, but I did mean it when I said he could turn himself into an Antonio McDyess-type player, albeit, on another team since the Knicks would probably bury him on the bench. One thing I was adamant about though was how much of a hard worker Amar’e is and it’s something we are seeing the fruits of today. He accepted his spot minutes with professionalism, always has been the loudest voice from the bench in support for his teammates, and never once asked fans for a reprieve on his poor play when the boos began to reign from the Garden rafters. He responded by holding himself accountable for his performance, worked harder, and now is finally looking comfortably fluid off the bench for the very first time in his career.
In today’s era, we typically judge players by two things: their stats and their contract. Two things that will make anyone run away in fear when reviewing what Amar’e is worth. However, what often gets lost in today’s advance stats era is work ethic, something Amar’e has always prided himself on and something fans can sometimes overlook. It also shouldn’t surprise anyone that because of his hard work that he now finds himself a huge part of the Knicks’s 2014 revival. It’s not easy to admit you are wrong, but I never been happier to admit I was wrong about Amar’e Stoudemire.