Is Vintage STAT Back?

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The New York Knicks won two games this week that some may say a championship caliber team certainly should have, against the banged up 21-40 Cleveland Cavaliers, and the 23-40 Detroit Pistons. Both games brought up concerning factors for the Knicks, giving the fact their best player, Carmelo Anthony, had a small part in both efforts. Anthony left the game on Monday against the Cavaliers with a knee injury, and his absence followed when the team traveled to the Palace two days later to take on the Pistons.

Between Anthony being sidelined with the injury, coupled with the fact the Knicks were on the road, their backs seemed to be against the wall. With the question of whether or not the Knicks have a player, not named Anthony, that can take the ball when a critical bucket is needed, is a challenge that’s been haunting them all year. Another losing streak seemed to be on the horizon for this Knicks team.

Anthony left the Cavaliers game on Monday when the team was down by 22 points, and although fans may have mailed in the notion of the Knicks snapping their 10-game losing streak at the Quicken Loans Arena, they didn’t themselves. As we all know, the Knicks came back to win at the Q despite Anthony leaving the game, spear-headed by the passionate play of Amare Stoudemire. Stoudemire looked like the player the New York crowd would chant M-V-P for upon stepping foot at the free-throw line on a nightly occasion two season back, and his determination didn’t end their.

Stoudemire once again was a key factor in the win against the Pistons on Wednesday, scoring 22 points on 8-12 shooting, and grabbing a season-high nine rebounds. The two game winning streak marks the first back-to-back 30+ minutes a game for Stoudemire, and hopefully the trend continues. Raymond Felton came up huge in the win as well, hitting big shots, displaying tenacity on defense, finishing with 26 points and shooting an efficient 10-15 from the floor. It’s hard to lose a game when you get that level of production out of your point guard, but I believe Stoudemire has cemented his name into the Knicks next best scoring option after Anthony.

Showcasing the abilities we always knew he had, Stoudemire has done nothing less of standing on top of mountain,  and screaming to the world he’s ready to play. Shouting it’s time for him to be on the court, and it’s time to be fed. I’m still not a huge advocate on having Stoudemire in the starting lineup because of how much Anthony sizes up and causes matchup issues at the power forward position, but he must play over 30 minutes if his knee allows, and he must close games. Stoudemire is only averaging 14.2 points and 4.9 rebounds on the season, but he is only seeing right over 23 minutes a game. When you put it in perspective, Stoudemire’s per 48 minutes averages would be 29.2 points and 10.1 rebounds. The bottom line is, he is producing, and with the extra opportunity of Anthony needing some time off, Stoudemire has made a clear statement.

I know per 48 minute stats can be misleading sometimes, but the fact of the matter is Stoudemire is shooting an outrageous 59 percent from the field in all of the 28 games he’s played in this season. To top that off, in the past seven games alone, Stoudemire is 49-69, shooting a mind-blowing 71 percent from the field, and showing no prisoners in the process.

STAT has once again shown he can be the presence in the paint for the Knicks alongside Tyson Chandler, with his swagger seemingly to be completely back. I once said the sky is the limit for the Knicks if JR Smith can consistently catch fire, but the bottom line is STAT is much more reliable. Smith can certainly blow up any night, but Stoudemire doesn’t need to bank on streaky shooting to have a successful night.

After watching him flush numerous reverse two-handed dunks this week, and being able to clearly hear him though the television screaming and cussing when he knows he’s committed a silly foul, just shows me his fire and passion is fully back. Stoudemire has treated his bench role with incredible class, and he finally deserves to be rewarded for the situation he’s been placed in giving his injury. Stoudemire is, and always will be, known for the effort and determination he brings to this Knicks squad, and his level of production has been sky-rocketing because of it.

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