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Considering how well the New York Knicks are playing without him, how should they handle Amare Stoudemire’s potential return in the first round of the playoffs?
Joe Caporoso - If Amare does make his return for the Knicks in the first round of the playoffs, it will be a difficult balancing act for Head Coach Mike Woodson. Kenyon Martin has played too well to see a major decline in minutes and tampering at all with a rotation who has ripped off nine straight wins recently is a risky proposition. Stoudemire should basically take Chris Copeland’s role in the rotation, as a shot in the arm to the offense off the bench for a stretch in each half. It is hard to see Stoudemire logging major minutes for this team’s playoff run, unless somebody gets into foul trouble or there is another injury in front of him. At this point, the Knicks need to rely on ‘Stat as a role player…a very expensive role player…who can hopefully provide instant offense in needed situations.
Chris Celletti – When and if Amar’e comes back, there’s absolutely zero question that he has to come off the bench. And although you don’t like paying someone $20 million for this, he needs to defer to J.R. Smith as the primary scorer off the bench. As long as Smith continues to play aggressively and go towards the basket, he’s a far more versatile and dangerous offensive player than Stoudemire, who obviously gives the Knicks next to nothing on the defensive end. Stoudemire’s best chance is to find minutes off the bench with Pablo Prigioni and have the two become an effective pick-and-roll tandem. Still, I don’t think Stoudemire should be playing big minutes, and shouldn’t be sharing the floor too often with Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, as Melo needs to play at the 4 for mismatch purposes. If he does come back, unfortunately Amar’e needs to accept a very limited bench role.
Chris DiGioia - Yet again, the Knicks are going to find themselves with the same dilemma from earlier in the season. How will Amare Stoudemire fit in the rotation? There is going to be an immense amount of pressure on Head Coach Mike Woodson to make the right move, and on the team to execute on the court. The bottom line is, if Amare is healthy and ready to go, he must be an integral part of the lineup.
Amare has handled whatever hand he’s been dealt this season like a class act, and I expect the same reaction upon his return. The Knicks certainly cooled down after their 18-5 start, right around the time Amare came back to the lineup, but that had nothing to do with his play. He can be a liability on the defense end at times, but their was a stretch, ironically right around the time Carmelo Anthony’s knee acted up on the road against the Cleveland Cavaliers, where it looked like Amare had to start. Bringing Amare off the bench the way Woodson had been doing all year, will ultimately bury Kenyon Martin on the bench. Martin has played stellar for the Knicks during this impressive nine game winning streak, and he’s helped sure up the toughness of this team. Martin’s no young buck, but it’s clear he’s got enough gas left in the tank to the help this team make a strong run. If Amare were ready to take court, I would love to see Carmelo slide down to his natural small forward position.
Amare will be able to start the game, and Martin can play a key role as the first big man off the bench. I have been an advocate all season long on keeping Amare on the bench, because I love Carmelo at the power forward in the small ball lineup, but it’s time for something new. The Knicks were consistently nothing more then .500 team the whole time Amare was coming off the bench.
Matt Fritz – This may be a bit of a dilemma for the Knicks, but I really believe there is a simple answer to it. When Amar’e does in fact return come playoff time, I think they should handle him exactly the same way they have done in the past. I think bringing Amar’e off of the bench is the most appropriate scenario. Without question, Kenyon Martin and Tyson Chandler should be the starting 4 and 5. Kenyon brings that much needed toughness on defense, that unfortunately, STAT does not. It seemed as though bringing him off the bench, prior to him getting hurt, was working just fine. Just like the old saying goes, “If it aint broke, don’t fix it.” This Knicks team is far from being broke on this 9 game winning streak, so why screw around with it? When Amar’e returns, obviously you don’t not play him, but you bring him off the bench and give him anywhere between 15-25 minutes a game. The beauty of it is, Kenyon and Amar’e are two completely different players, one guy gives you more defense, and the other gives you more offense. When Amar’e returns, bring him off the bench, and let things play out the way they should.
Tim Murray – Clearly the 2012-2013 Knicks function better without Amar’e Stoudemire than they do with him. The two highest points of this season have come in his absence; the very beginning where they started off 6-0 and during their current 9-game winning streak.
The Knicks are currently second in the Eastern Conference and should have some serious momentum heading to the playoffs. They are essentially in an ideal spot.
If Stat was able to come back for the postseason, I think his minutes should be extremely limited. Although there is value that he can bring to the lineup in certain situations, overall people cannot let the fact that he is a max-contract player and former superstar interfere with the truth. His body has let him down and at this point his contributions on both ends of the floor have greatly diminished. Plain and simple, this Knicks team will play better without him as they have done all season.