If you can tell me how adding a six-time NBA All-Star and battle tested veteran to the New York Knicks is a bad thing, be my guest in the comments section below.
Amar’e Stoudemire came to New York in 2010 with nothing but championship aspirations, however, instead of talking the talk, he showed us with his game. He ran this city by providing the Knicks with a legitimate stud to build their team around. Sure, $100 million speaks volumes, but STAT was up for the challenge that LeBron James wanted no part of. The fearlessness that he showed off the court easily transitioned on to it, but when the going got tough in the City That Never Sleeps, most fans bailed on the player that they were showering with admiration just months earlier. Stoudemire’s in-your-face brand of basketball captivated many, and now that the Knicks find themselves engaged in a physical battle with the rugged Indiana Pacers, his style could be just what New York needs to advance to the next round.
For seven of the eight quarters in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Pacers have controlled the toughness in the paint. Knicks players have continually barreled into Indiana defenders without the benefit of getting to the free throw line, and if they can’t match the Pacers physicality in Indiana, this might be a shorter series than we all thought. Who better to remedy the problem than the well-chiseled, 6-10, 245 pound offensive nightmare known as Amar’e Stoudemire?
No, he won’t be logging major minutes, but any moment he can be on the floor can only benefit the Knicks offensively. The Pacers ranked 23rd out of 30 teams this season in points per game, but their staunch defense is what makes them tough to beat. It should be easy for the Knicks to keep pace (hardy har har) with Indiana’s scoring, but they’re going to have to get a little more creative when the jumpers aren’t falling. This is where STAT comes up huge. Sure, you can consider Carmelo Anthony a post player, you don’t want him playing with his back to the basket and the Knicks have sometimes struggled to get him the ball on the block when everyone and their mother knows it’s coming. Getting Amar’e back allows the Knicks to change things up and play inside-out every once in a while, even if it’s only on a handful of possessions per game.
Surprisingly, it took this long to mention his effect on the pick and roll. Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni have stepped up tremendously this postseason, and if Felton’s ankle allows him to, they can both elevate their game even further with STAT’s addition. Yes, despite Mike D’Antoni’s absence, the pick and roll has been an essential part of the Knicks offense and even when the two man game fails, it opens up room for Melo to operate while also allowing free, natural ball movement. Having Steve Nash for the prime of his career probably sways my opinion a bit, but Amar’e is the best pick and roll big man I’ve seen play. Even if he’ll be more like he was in his first month back this season (12.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game) rather than the dunk machine we last saw when he put New York on his wide shoulders in Anthony’s absence, a Stoudemire pick and roll is far more versatile than the repetitive lobs we’ve seen to Tyson Chandler all season long.
Most haters will be quick to point out the size of STAT’s contract as their main reasoning for disdain, which is fair only if you’re the one shelling out 100 million uninsured dollars. Sure, a lot of his tenure in New York has been occupied in a suit on the end of the Knicks bench, but it certainly isn’t his fault when his body breaks down. Stoudemire always stays humble and hungry, trying keep the spotlight on the team’s success while constantly staying focused on rehabbing whatever injury may be at hand. How many all-stars would accept a role off the bench as quiet and humble as he did? I’m not saying you have to worship the ground that Amar’e Stoudemire stands on, but acknowledge the difference he makes on the court and respect the work ethic and mental toughness he brings off of it. He’s going to be an important cog if the Knicks plan on taking down the Pacers.