Giglio: Returning Knick Stoudemire Could Be Insurance For J.R. Smith’s Slump
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By Joe Giglio
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As the Knicks get set for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal Series on Saturday night in Indiana, Amar’e Stoudemire is ready to return to the rotation, giving coach Mike Woodson another scoring option off the bench against a great Pacers defense.
Expecting Amar’e to be a 30-minute contributor isn’t realistic after his second knee surgery of the season, but his ability to score in the low-post for 10-15 minutes per game could prove invaluable, especially if Carmelo Anthony’s wingman, J.R. Smith, continues his shooting slump and losses confidence as the postseason goes on.
Mike Woodson has expressed frustration with Smith’s shot selection, but has kept him on the floor throughout the postseason because of work on the defensive end, energy and rebounding.
While Smith’s too valuable and too streaky to be banished to the bench for an extended period, New York needs efficient scoring from someone other than Carmelo to get through Indiana.
The Pacers are too good defensively to allow Carmelo to beat them by himself four times in a seven game series. While the Knicks have other contributors that can get hot, none — with the exception of the underrated, yet passive, Pablo Prigioni — has the ability to score efficiently. In other words, giving Mike Woodson an 8-10 point boost without wasting possessions with long jumpers.
If Tyson Chandler was 100%, he would be that guy. While his put-back dunks and energy seems to be increasing by the game in this postseason, expecting him to give maximum effort and energy on both ends of the floor isn’t realistic. As long as he’s responsible for defending the paint and banging with Roy Hibbert, his offensive game will be non-existent in this series.
As always, the No. 2 man to Carmelo is crucial in a postseason series. Against a defense like Indiana, it becomes even more magnified.
If J.R. Smith was playing his best basketball, Amar’e would be nothing more than a luxury to have back. His minutes would come at the end of quarters, with the second unit and rarely, if ever, would he be asked to give a major boost. Not after two knee surgeries in a season.
Yet, Smith is unpredictable, and offense needs to come from somewhere in order to get through Indiana.
While Stoudemire has become a forgotten man over the years, he quietly did what he was asked by the coaching staff last offseason — change his offensive game — to fit in better with Carmelo and the attack the Knicks would run.
The team scuffled when he returned from his first knee surgery, but don’t pin that blame solely on Amar’e. As we’ve seen over and over with this Knicks group, inconsistency is their consistency.
When the season became a grind in January and February, you may have stopped watching as intently as you did when the year started with a bang against Miami or ended with a sprint into the postseason.
Admittedly, with Amar’e out there, Shumpert gaining traction and injuries piling up, the Knicks weren’t very much fun to watch for a few months.
Amar’e, however, was an interesting subplot. His offensive game changed. Out were the jumpers and need to play in the pick and roll game all the time. In their place: a back to the basket games, low post moves and startling efficiency in shooting percentage.
The construction of the Knicks’ roster will never tailor Amar’e the way it did during his first few months in New York, but that doesn’t mean he can’t help right now.
With Anthony leading the way, Stoudemire will always be a square peg in a round hole for the Knicks offense.
With a glaring need for scoring against a difficult defense, any square peg that can shoot nearly 58 percent from the field is worth a shot, though.
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