By John Schmeelk
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Another night passes, another Knicks loss has fans up in arms — and rightfully so.
The Suns are a bad basketball team with little more than Steve Nash and a bunch of role players. The problem for New York, once again, came on offense. The Knicks shot only 37 percent from the field, including a combined 12-44 from Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire.
The way the Knicks are structured, they need to get a lot of output out of their two stars. With a defensive-minded center, sub-par guards and a shallow bench, if the Knicks don’t get a lot out of their top guns, they are going to have trouble scoring. Until the last two games and his wrist and ankle injury, Anthony has been a consistent scorer. The same cannot be said about Stoudemire. He has been the AWOL star so far this year. Even leading the team with 23 points last night, he only shot 7-22.
It’s been the story of the season, with Stoudemire averaging just 17.9 points per game and shooting 42 percent from the field. His mid-range jumper has been off all season long. He doesn’t seem to have his old first-step burst. Nothing is coming easily for him either. With a lack of a true point guard to set him up for easy looks, Stoudemire has been forced to create on his own. It was never his forte but he is struggling with it more than usual this season.
Many fans and critics like to point to the arrival of Anthony as the start of Stoudemire’s decline, but that’s not the correct cause and effect. Stoudemire still scored plenty of points with Anthony on the roster last season. He averaged 24 points a game in March, just one point below his season average, playing with Anthony.
The true difference is the Knicks’ lack of a true point guard. With neither Chauncey Billups nor Raymond Felton, Stoudemire has no one to run the pick and roll with. Those two players, more Felton than Billups, got Stoudemire easy shots as he cut towards the basket. Getting those types of baskets was always Stoudemire’s strength, dating back to his days in Phoenix with Steve Nash. Right now the Knicks don’t have a guard to get him those looks.
Anthony has been the Knicks’ most effective pick and roll player this year, but he has seldom been paired with Stoudemire in those situations. It has a lot to do with Tyson Chandler, another new presence Stoudemire has not been able to adjust to. With Chandler playing close to the basket, his man can easily help out on Stoudemire when he attacks the basket. So D’Antoni has chosen to use Chandler as the roll man, with Stoudemire spreading the floor. It has taken away a lot of Stoudemire’s strengths and the coach needs to figure out a way to get him involved in that part of the offense.
The Knicks’ lack of outside shooting has also hurt him. With the team shooting terribly from behind the arc, opponents can easily flood the paint on Stoudemire going towards the basket.
Baron Davis might help the situation, but Stoudemire needs to figure out a way to get it done with or without him. With fingers pointing at Anthony and D’Antoni for all the Knicks shortcomings, Stoudemire should be in the crosshairs. The only way this team wins is if both their stars play well.
That hasn’t happened so far this year, and most of it has to do with Stoudemire, not Anthony.
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Is Stoudemire the problem? D’Antoni? Carmelo? Make your case in the comments below…