By Ryan Schneider
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The New York Mets might as well offer Amar’e Stoudemire a $10 million deal for next summer, because STAT is rapidly becoming the most talked about closer in town. His performance over the last seven games has been nothing short of historical. His play has been dominant….his leadership infectious. There is not a player in the league at 24 games into the season who has been more valuable than Stoudemire.
Is it too early to say he is deserving of the award? Of course…but make no mistake about it, if you take Amar’e off this team they are the same old Knicks. According to ESPN.com, here are the top ten MVP candidates a quarter of the way through the NBA regular season in order according to a player efficiency rating: Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki, Russell Westbrook, Manu Ginobili and then Amar’e. He is seventh on that list…seventh!!!
To a statistical guru, the numbers may point to a guy like Howard or Williams to be an MVP candidate. However, dig just a little deeper and you will realize why at this point there really shouldn’t be any debate as to who is playing the best basketball in the league right now. After a decade worth of losing, Amar’e has the Knicks at 15-9. They are 9-1 in their last ten games…currently five games ahead of the eight seed in the Conference. Before the season commenced there was hope the Knicks would make a run at a playoff spot. Right now they have solidified themselves as a dangerous playoff team.
Why? Amar’e! That’s it…you really can’t even debate it. His performance in the fourth quarter over the last two weeks has been Jordan-esque. The team has been lifted up, placed on STAT’s shoulders and carried to the Promised Land. Even though we have had countless examples over the last couple of games of Amare’s resounding influence, let’s look at last night as an example.
In the fourth quarter, Amar’e had 10 of his 36 points, but the crucial play in the game came with 45 seconds left. After Stoudemire had the ball stripped from his hands, John Wall streaked past four Knicks with nothing but a wide open lane in front of him. Wall eloquently sliced through traffic, lifted off the floor, his eyes widened as he had the chance to cut it to a three point game, the ball rolled off his fingertips… and then BAM, Amar’e took two huge steps and punched the ball off the glass like a prize-fighter.
I can’t tell you how many times into this short season I have seen Wall finish off that play without a hitch. He is faster than 99 percent of the guys in the league. But Amar’e is in that 1 percent of people who can keep up with Wall just enough to make a game-clinching block.
It has been a long time since there was someone in a Knicks uniform who thrived in late-game situations. The Achilles heel of Patrick Ewing was the last minute of a big game. Give it to him in the post with 45 seconds left and you never knew what was going to happen. Amar’e has proven over a short period of time that he not only wants the ball, but can deliver when called upon. If there is one thing New Yorker’s love, it’s someone who can deliver in the clutch. It’s the reason why Derek Jeter has become so beloved in this city.
As Sandy Alderson continues to piece his roster together, he will inevitably look for someone to replace Assault-Rod. So far, Amar’e has been able to do it all on the basketball court… while he’s at it, you might as well throw him on the mound at Citi Field and see if he can turn around another cellar-dwelling New York team.
- Highlightin’ Hoops: Stoudemire On Fire (newyork.cbslocal.com)