By John Schmeelk
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This is what Amar’e Stoudemire said on Wednesday:
“I think having a defensive coach for the first time in my career is going to help. I’ve never been taught defense in my whole career. So to now have a coach who actually teaches defense and teaches strategies and knows positioning and posture and how to guard different plays, it’s going to be helpful.”
Huh? Are you serious?
Am I really going to believe that at every level, from AAU to high school to the NBA, not one person has taught Stoudemire basic individual- and team-defensive fundamentals? It’s a joke if anyone takes that statement at face value without raising an eyebrow.
There’s absolutely no way it could possibly be true. It’s pure fantasy.
First of all, Mike Woodson was Stoudemire’s assistant coach assigned to defense last year. Did he not try to teach Stoudemire defense? Moving beyond Woodson, to even fathom Mike D’Antoni never dedicated one drill or practice to defense just doesn’t pass the sanity test.
Allow me to disprove a commonly held thought that Mike D’Antoni’s teams don’t play any defense. The Suns’ defensive rankings while he was there:
Are those 90s Knicks numbers? No, but they are respectable. Once the Knicks got some decent players in 2010, they ranked 21st. In 2011 under D’Antoni, the Knicks were ranked No. 10. This year under the new regime of the defensive-oriented Mike Woodson, the Knicks are 18th. The point here is that every NBA team, even ones coached by D’Antoni, have defensive principles that are taught every day during film sessions on the floor. If anyone really thinks D’Antoni never coached or taught defense, they are living in a fantasy world of their own creation.
No one could coach on the NBA level without teaching defense.
Whether it was intentional or not, Stoudemire threw his former coach under the bus. What he really needs to do is look in the mirror. If he really had never been taught to play defense, why didn’t he seek out help on that end of the floor on his own? If all he ever really wanted to do was win, why not pull an excellent defender like Shawn Marion aside and ask him to teach him some defense? Tyson Chandler didn’t try to teach him defense last year either? How about all the years Jared Jeffries was here? Any assistant coach would be willing to do more work after practice to help Stoudemire play better defense. The entire premise is absolute nonsense.
In truth, Stoudemire should be embarrassed and ashamed of himself for having the gall to say something like that with a straight face. He has had the athletic and physical ability to play defense his entire career and has not done it well. It’s certainly possible that he simply lacks the basketball IQ and instincts to be a great defender — and that’s fine. But a little more focus and effort could make him adequate, which is all anyone is asking. There’s no reason he should be the equivalent of a matador.
It’s great that he’s finally receptive to defensive coaching, but his excuse for being a poor defender his entire career is just that: an excuse. It doesn’t pass the smell test. Hopefully Woodson will reach him, and get him to a point where he is not such a liability. Of course, the way the rest of the team is playing defense these days, it might not happen.
At least both Woodson and Stoudemire both understand that STAT needs to make an impact not just on offense, but on defense as well.
You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and New York sports.
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