By John Schmeelk
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The day is coming when Amar’e Stoudemire will be back on the floor in a Knicks uniform.
He spoke to the media for the first time in a long time on Tuesday after scrimmaging with the Knicks’ D-League affiliate. He said the one thing that Knicks fans needed to hear: He’ll do whatever the Knicks’ coaches ask him to do to help the team win basketball games.
There has been a lot of writing about how the Knicks should utilize Stoudemire when he gets back from injury, and the common thought is that Stoudemire needs to come off the bench. This argument doesn’t get to the core of the issue. It doesn’t matter if Stoudemire starts or comes off the bench. All that matters is that he is on the court for every single minute that Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler are off of it. That’s how you maximize his skills and ability.
There is going to be natural overlap of Stoudemire’s minutes with both Anthony and Chandler. It can’t be avoided unless the Knicks limit Stoudemire to 15 minutes a game.
That’s not going to happen.
Does it really matter when that overlap happens? Does anyone care if it happens in the first four minutes as opposed to the four minutes in the second quarter? The better question is whether it will happen at the end of games, and that is something that Mike Woodson will have to figure out.
Offensively, Stoudemire is a bit redundant with both Chandler and Anthony in the way they score their points. Like Anthony, he’ll get the ball in the low post, high post and free-throw line extended to score in isolation situations. Like Chandler, he is the screen man in the pick-and-roll, and can be a deadly finisher going towards the basket.
When all three are on the floor together, the common argument is that there isn’t enough spacing for any of them to do what they like to do offensively. Their history so far shows that argument to be correct. It is important to note that they haven’t tried to play together with Woodson, so history might not be a great guide in this situation.
So far this season, when the Knicks have played without Anthony, they have struggled getting open threes because there’s no one out there that can draw extra attention or a double-team offensively. Likewise, they don’t get easy shots at the basket when Chandler is out of the game because Rasheed Wallace prefers to pick and pop (and clank three pointers) rather than cut to the basket.
Stoudemire can play pick-and-roll with Pablo Prigioni and the rest of the second unit and score in the low post as well. This should improve the Knicks’ offensive efficiency exponentially when Chandler and Anthony are off the floor. Stoudemire can be the go-to guy and he can exercise his offensive talents.
It will also give Woodson options down the stretch of the game, when he decides what the best lineup is to close out games depending on who is hot. It will be easier to rest Anthony or Chandler if they are in foul trouble, and it will be easier to rest them more so they are fresh for fourth quarters and the playoffs.
These are all good things.
Woodson’s challenge will be to figure out what to do for the 12 minutes or so a game when Stoudemire will share the floor with the Knicks’ other two stars. Can he make it work? It remains to be seen, and it might be the key to the Knicks’ season.
Defensively, Woodson has other issues that he needs to sort out. With the Knicks’ defense deteriorating on a game-by-game basis (more on this in a story later this week), adding a weak defender like Stoudemire to the lineup will only hurt things. Pairing him with Anthony or Steve Novak might be epically bad. This is something else that Woodson will have to figure out as Stoudemire works his way back into the lineup.
The Knicks are getting back a player that’s better than most. He’s an improvement over Kurt Thomas,Wallace and everyone else not named Chandler or Anthony in the frontcourt.
This can only be a good thing.
It’s up to Woodson, Anthony, Chandler and Stoudemire to figure out a way to work together and make a great thing. The Knicks hold the best record in the Eastern Conference, and in a few weeks they will have more talent. It’s going to be an exciting year.
You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and New York sports.
Will Amar’e Stoudemire make the Knicks a better team when he returns, or will his presence disrupt the team’s on-court chemistry? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…