By John Schmeelk
It honestly pains me to write this. I sat down and started today’s column a bunch of different ways, but this was the only approach.
I have the utmost respect for Amar’e Stoudemire and recognize his willingness to come to New York is the only reason the Knicks are where they are today. Yes, New York overpaid for his services, but the fact remains that he came and brought relevance back to the Knicks. He’s been a true professional since his arrival, even willingly accepting a bench role for the betterment of the team. He has worked his butt off to come back from a number of injuries, and looked great before the most recent one.
With all that said — he should not step foot on the court again this season for the Knicks.
The Knicks are a better team with Stoudemire securely on the bench — and it’s hard to argue otherwise. The team was just 16-13 with him this season. When he didn’t play they were 38-15. Going by points per possession, the team is better offensively and defensively sans STAT. His inclusion would either take minutes away from Kenyon Martin or Tyson Chandler, or force Mike Woodson to play two bigs at the same time.
I’m not sure which would be worse. Both are bad.
Some will argue that it couldn’t possibly hurt the team to play Amar’e over Steve Novak or Chris Copeland, considering their lack of playoff production. Those folks fail to realize that even with Copeland and Novak missing shots, they still spread the floor and prevent Indiana from packing the paint. Besides, Novak and Copeland played far less than the 10-15 minutes Woodson told the media he planned to play Stoudemire. Does that mean he’ll take minutes from the likes of Iman Shumpert, Pablo Prigioni, J.R. Smith or Jason Kidd?
And this is assuming Stoudemire is going to be at full strength and not extremely rusty. He hasn’t played basketball in months, and is bound to struggle getting back into rhythm. Is this really the time to let him get his game back? Does anyone think he is going to dominate Roy Hibbert or David West down low? Will he rebound or defend?
It’s all so unrealistic.
Stoudemire’s best skill: finishing around the basket on the pick-and-roll, something Chandler and Martin do nearly as well. And those two play much better defense.
Carmelo Anthony is coming off a monster game. This is not the time to make him try to play with Stoudemire, someone Melo has struggled blending with since he got here. The Knicks are playing some of their best defense of the year in the postseason, and Stoudemire has shown time and time again that New York’s defense is awful when he plays at the same time as Anthony. The team has a -3.6 net rating when the two are on the floor together, with one of the worst defensive ratings of any of the Knicks’ two-man combinations. Stoudemire has been fine with Chandler, but that would again take the Knicks away from the small-ball lineups that have been so successful.
The only way this Stoudemire thing could work would be if Chandler, Martin and Anthony all get into foul trouble, and his post play is needed as the centerpiece of the offense. Otherwise, I can’t imagine this turning out any way but badly.
The Knicks have been better without Amar’e. Why would Woodson think that’s going to change now? Especially when he’s rusty and coming off an injury? It doesn’t make any sense.
It doesn’t mean playing him 10-15 minutes will finish the Knicks in this series, but it will make it more difficult to win. It’s unlikely Stoudemire will start scoring at a 20-point per game pace and help the team defensively and on the boards.
The chances that Woodson ends up looking good for this decision are slim to none.
Yet, for some reason, he’s decided to take this risk. This is self-sabotage of the highest order.
It’s Knicks basketball.
You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants and New York sports.
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