04 May 2012

Have we seen the last of Amar'e Stoudemire with the Knicks?

Barring a miraculous series comeback as they are down 3 games to none against the Miami Heat, with game 4 on Sunday afternoon, the New York Knicks' season is essentially over, bringing an end to what was a certainly interesting and absolutely entertaining season for the Knickerbockers. The Knicks went at the third game of the series sans Amar'e Stoudemire, who was out due to cutting his hand after punching a fire extinguisher (want to see a picture?). Stoudemire did practice today but even he thinks it will be doubtful for him to play on Sunday (I mean, look at the freaking picture). That said, could the Amar'e in New York tenure be coming to a close?

Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated's The Point Forward wrote a fascinating article that ponders if Stoudemire being out would actually benefit the Knicks (this piece was written on Tuesday, before game 3). You should read the whole piece but I'll quote the most relevant piece for this blog post.
As I and others have noted repeatedly this season, Stoudemire just hasn't helped the Knicks, mostly because the Anthony/Stoudemire combination has been a disaster. The Knicks outscored opponents by about 3.2 points per game, but with Stoudemire on the floor, opponents beat them by about three points per 100 possessions. That number got even worse - about four per game - when Stoudemire and Anthony shared the court, per NBA.com's stats database.
The Knicks have suffered from something of a catch 22 with this pairing: They cannot play the Anthony/Stoudemire duo without Tyson Chandler because it would be defensive suicide. But playing Chandler with the two stars has sabotaged the offense because Chandler and Stoudemire play roughly the same role in any functioning offense - pick-and-roll screener - and are not skilled enough perimeter shooters or off-ball cutters to work a secondary role.
Now if you read the entire article, there is no clear cut case if in the series the absence of Stoudemire would benefit the Knicks or not, the chief reasons being the injury toll that the Knicks are taking in especially young guard Iman Shumpert, who has developed into a real defensive stopper in the backcourt, and how good the Heat are at going small. But it is clear that Stoudemire is not a very good fit on this team for the reasons that Lowe stated. Particularly the fact that he and Anthony do not fit very well with each other, not just defensively but also on offense where both are high-scorers that need the ball a lot and once they get the ball, the ball's going up essentially. And with the fact that he has not meshed well with Chandler, it seems that something has to change because a team that has players the caliber of Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler plus some solid shooters, a great young defensive guard in the aforementioned Shumpert and finally a point guard in Jeremy Lin should not be floundering at the bottom of the playoff teams in what is a weak conference. And thus, should we ponder that Stoudemire could be out the door and the team try to find a player that better completes their roster?

It must be said that because of his massive contract it will be very difficult to more Stoudemire. Plus, he was also the only name guy in the ballyhooed 2010 offseason that chose to sign with New York and playing a major part in getting this team out of the doldrums of the basketball world. But for what the team gave up for Stoudemire (strictly a truck-load of cash) and for Anthony (a bunch of talented and young players that helped keep Denver competitive, plus a truck-load of cash) as in the fact that despite both being elite players that Anthony is clearly a better player than him despite his own faults, plus that he also does not fit with Chandler, who has been a brilliant acquisition, Stoudemire would be the one that would have to go if the team were willing to make changes to improve their roster so that they would where they belong with their talent in the East. It also would be hard to find a trading partner who would take on Stoudemire's huge deal and thus give the Knicks good value in return (although I'd be damn sure the Brooklyn Nets would try to put something together and maybe they could try to do sign-and-trades to give New York possibly Kris Humphries, who although is an awful defender, he is tremendous on the boards and that skill would be beneficial to the Knicks, and Gerald Wallace, although this is complete speculation). So while it may be a bit of unlikely speculation, it is speculation worth having because it is clear that it is just not quite right in New York.

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