For months and months, we’ve heard nothing but promises about free agency in 2015. That summer, Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Andrea Bargnani all come off the books, but just because the Knicks have the option of ridding themselves of their services, doesn’t necessarily mean they should. Stoudemire, in particular, expressed interest in returning in this awesome piece featured on Bleacher Report, and if the price is right, there’s no reason why New York shouldn’t welcome him back with open arms.
STAT has had a a roller coaster relationship with New York fans to say the least. At the beginning of the 2010-11 season, he was the savior, and an MVP candidate. He proved that life after Steve Nash wasn’t going to be so miserable after all, and set the Knicks franchise record for most consecutive 30-point games. However, by the end of that year, he was second fiddle to Carmelo Anthony. To make it worse, he injured his back in the layup line before Game 1 of the playoffs.
The majority said that Amar’e and Melo would never work together, and no one wanted to hear otherwise. Despite the small sample size, the duo was never given a fair shot. The Knicks didn’t do as much winning as was expected in 2011-12, finishing as a seventh seed and swiftly getting bounced by the soon-to-be champion Heat in the first round. Stoudemire capped off an injury riddled campaign by cutting his hand on a fire extinguisher door while taking out his frustrations on a tough Game 2 loss. He missed the next contest.
Then, the injuries mounted even further. After playing only 47 games in 2011-12, he played just 29 the following season. Amar’e fought hard to get back to where he used to be, but each comeback attempt brought up new issues. There’s a reason why the Phoenix Suns refused to match the New York’s five-year, $100 million offer.
All of a sudden, the whole city turned on him. No longer was STAT the guy who was going to make everything okay. Instead, he was viewed as another big contract wasted on a bad set of knees. In reality, he was still a leader and essential voice in the locker room, but the casual fan only cares on-court production, and Stoudemire couldn’t stay on the floor. New York reared it’s ugly head and demanded that he be run out of town.
Now, once again, Stoudemire is an important piece of the puzzle. Since his insertion into the starting lineup, the Knicks are 7-2 and he’s averaging 19.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Finally, the team can match up with some of the league’s bigger opponents, and they proved that by defeating the Indiana Pacers, who own the Eastern Conference’s best record, this past week. STAT certainly isn’t the only reason that the Knicks are playing as well as they have been, but the boost he gave them has been a nice change of pace. It’s great to see from someone who has been so unfortunate over the past couple years.
STAT has done all he could for this city over the past four seasons. Just because he wasn’t playing as much as we’d all like to see, didn’t mean he’s wasn’t working his tail off to get back. It wasn’t Stoudemire’s play that was plaguing him, it was his body. Even throughout the injuries, STAT kept a consistent presence in the locker room, and was a voice of reason for the team. He’s obviously not going to command a max contract come 2015, and since the Knicks can go over the salary cap to sign him, it’s definitely something worth looking into. If the team is going to be running the triangle offense, as Phil Jackson says he would like to, then there’s definitely room for a player like STAT, who despite his defensive shortcomings, has the versatility to play both center and power forward, and can play a in multitude of roles.
We’ve seen Stoudemire develop from an in-your-face, smashmouth dunker to a complete player, who can beat you with his back to the basket or with his consistent jumper. Some of this development, of course, was circumstantial, but nonetheless, Amar’e has put in the work to get himself to where he is now (and the money too, $100,000 for a week of training with Hakeem Olajuwon). His previous style made his future a risk. He wasn’t going to have that leaping ability forever, but now he can do the little things to keep himself relevant. Jackson says he would rather get players at value, and the injury plagued seasons may provide New York with just that. It’s clear that STAT loves New York, and now it’s time to give some of that love back.