The only way anyone is going to challenge Miami in this year’s playoffs is with size and depth. For them to pull off the upset come May (or hopefully June), they are going to need to size up and use their physicality, and the best way to do that is with Amar’e Stoudemire in the starting line-up.
It seems so easy to forget about the past in New York City, where the media can sway opinions so strongly. Prior to last year, Amar’e averaged over 20 points per game in seven of the previous eight seasons, with the outlier being the year that he injured his knee and played in only three contests. Sure, some of his stats were a product of the D’Antoni system, but Stoudemire is a gamer whose presence alone can impact a team’s mental state.
For so many years, Stoudemire’s game was as unique as can be. Even with a defender on his back, he would turn and face, eventually blowing by, or through whoever got in his way. But then age crept in. With his explosiveness diminishing by the day, he took matters into his own hands, dropping $100,000 for two weeks of post play lessons from the man with the greatest footwork we’ve ever seen, Hakeem Olajuwon. Because of these changes he’s had to make, his game is much more versatile, and brings as much physicality as you can offensively without being in consistent foul trouble.
However, you can dump all the money you want on lessons, and it still won’t resolve years of wear and tear on your surgically repaired knees. In the beginning of the season, Stoudemire saw how fluent the team was playing without him and was mature enough to handle the situation like a true professional. How many six-time All-Stars making 20-plus million dollars a year would agree to swallow their pride and come off the bench? Amar’e did it without a peep of negativity, but still many in this city don’t give him the credit he deserves. He came to New York in 2010 and literally put the Knicks on his back. He proved he wasn’t only a leader on the floor, but off of it too. Stat’s play was peaking so high that even the national media was beginning to recognize him as a superstar. He has paid his dues and with the team play getting a tad stale of late, now is as good of a time as ever to get him back in the starting five.
I’m not saying that a bigger starting line-up will solve all of New York’s problems on the glass, but after last night’s thrashing courtesy of the Pacers, Woodson needs to shake things up somehow. It would be completely foolish to dismiss the defensive mindset that the combination of Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony lack, but sliding Iman Shumpert back to his natural shooting guard position and having the reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler clogging up the paint certainly hides some deficiencies.
This is the first full season that Melo and Stat have had together, and even so, they have missed a combined 37 games. Everyone says that they can’t play together, but everything is just a matter of time. You can’t just throw a couple superstars out there and expect greatness, right Lakers fans? Heck, even the Heat didn’t look so hot until late in to their first season as a super team. Some situations take longer to develop than others and this so happens to be one of those instances. Patience is a virtue, give it some time to gel, and if things still aren’t working out, then Woodson can always make another change to the line-up. They might as well throw their 20 million dollar man into the starting five, he’s certainly more deserving of a spot than Jason Kidd or Ronnie Brewer.