“Hey Amar’e, what’s happenin’? Ahh, I’m gonna need you to go ahead come in tomorrow. So if you could be here around 4:30 for shootaround, that would be great, mmmkay… Oh, oh and I almost forgot… ahh, I’m also gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday, too, mmmkay? We… ahh… lost some games this week, and ahh… we sort of need to play catch up. Thanks!”
(Do yourself a favor and click on the above image for full animation, it’s amazing.)
Unfortunately for Amar’e Stoudemire, his teammates and long-suffering Knicks fans, it’s far more likely that the forward will be sleeping in like Peter Gibbons from Office Space than suiting up anytime soon. In fairness to Stoudemire, staying in bed all day probably sounds a lot better than facing the
music media’s wrath tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden.
Word is that Amar’e will be lost for the remainder of the lost cause which is Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs after he mangled his left hand in a post-game fit of rage on Monday night in Miami—ostensibly due to his 9 shot attempts to Carmelo Anthony’s 900 — which required minor muscle surgery in New York yesterday. I don’t know about you, but anytime someone mentions the words muscle and surgery in the same sentence, the last adjective that comes to my mind is “minor.”
Predictably, the last two days have seen near-universal condemnation—and with good reason—of Stoudemire’s foolish and destructive behavior at the conclusion of the Knicks Game 2 loss to the Heat. Not only has S.T.A.T. (ICYMI, the acronym stands for Standing Tall & Talented) managed to virtually obliterate what had been a stellar reputation since his much-ballyhooed NYC-arrival just two years ago, but he has also left his team—already missing two starters in Jeremy Lin and Iman Shumpert— high and dry when they need him most, down 0-2 to a far superior team.
But maybe the talking heads—no, not these Talking Heads!—have it all wrong. Maybe castigating Amar’e isn’t at all the appropriate thing to do. Maybe, just maybe, Stoudemire’s ill-advised foray into the shadowy world of fire extinguisher MMA was merely the culmination of 12 months of complete and utter disarray in his life, both on the court and off.
Consider the following sequence of events:
- Alpha male signs $100M contract to play basketball in the world’s largest media market, in the World’s Most Famous Arena, in front of the most loyal and snake-bitten fan-base. For a guy who had been through unimaginable travails in his early life, the magnitude of the event cannot be overstated.
- Things can’t possibly get off to a better start as alpha male garners legitimate MVP-consideration through the first third of the 2010-’11 NBA season. “The Knicks are back!,” he had proclaimed, and it sure seems like he was right.
- Something called the “Super Friends” has planted a seed in the minds of the fans, the media and Knicks owner James Dolan. “Stars win championships,” they say, “not deep rosters with less-than-elite players.”
- Alpha male, though publicly in favor of the move, changes his name to beta male as the team decides to gut itself in order to bring in a different alpha male, one who will supposedly lead them to the promised land.
- To the surprise of many, (new) alpha male and beta male fail to mesh offensively for the remainder of the regular season, and whispers can be heard throughout the league that perhaps the pair is ill-fitting and incapable of coexistence. Both players no doubt privately wonder if perhaps the Gotham-cauldron wasn’t such a good idea, after all.
- Beta male attempts ill-advised dunk and severely injures back during pre-game warm-ups prior to Game 2 of Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs against. Team is swept and beta male largely escapes criticism, mostly because the injury is viewed as freak occurrence and NBA players can generally dunk and stuff without issue.
- Beta male spends the next six months rehabbing his back injury and does not pick up a basketball.
- The NBA lockout arrives and abates, though not before costing the league 16 regular season games and forcing teams to compress the 2011-’12 season into an absurdly untenable schedule.
- The team signs Player D—fresh off his own championship run elsewhere —to provide his brand of no-nonsense defense and accountability. No one really wonders what this might mean for beta male.
- Though synergy between (new) alpha male, beta mail and Player D proves elusive during the early part of the season, optimism reigns supreme that growing pains will sort themselves out and a championship is but a few months away.
- The older brother of beta male tragically dies in a car accident, and beta male leaves the team to be with his family. The team wins all four games in his absence and a star called Lin is born.
- Beta male reinjures back and is presumed lost for the season. The team goes on to win 9-of-13 games without him before beta male’s near-miraculous return some weeks later.
- The team promptly loses beta male’s first game back—against one of the worst teams in the league, thereby assuring that the team will face an opponent they cannot beat in the impending playoffs. DOOM!
- Beta male fights fire suppressant device and loses.
I agree that Amar’e deserves to be criticized for what he did in frustration on Monday. He is the captain of the team. He gets paid a lot of money. He needs to be smarter than that. He has a responsibility to the organization to represent himself in a manner befitting his status.
That said, criticism is a lot different than vilification.
And to those who have suggested that the Knicks should look into voiding Stoudemire’s contract: that isn’t happening. This was an accident. An accident resulting from selfish, negilent, perhaps even grossly negilgent behavior? Sure. But an accident nonetheless.
What’s that? It’s an apology that you’re after? Fine, if that would make you feel better, but really, the only people that Amar’e needs to apologize to are his teammates. I suspect most in the Knicks locker room are happy that Stoudemire was finally displaying some aggressiveness, even if it was after the final buzzer had sounded.
The Knicks are sure to consider docking 1/110th of Stoudemire’s annual salary per-game-missed, as seems to be their right under the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, but any additional disciplinary or punitive action would surely draw the ire of the Player’s Association and cause additional and unnecessary tension.
Look, this series is over (cue the “HATER tweets!), but there is a case to be made that the Knicks—who went 14-5 without Stoudemire during the regular season—might actually play better without him. Either way, let’s just call this what it is, a moment of stupidity by a player who had given everything he has to the team before now, despite an inordinate number of less-than-ideal circumstances.
“Oh, and Amar’e? Ahh…Yeah. It’s just that we’re putting new cover plates on all the fire extinguishers now. So if you could go ahead and try to remember to do that from now on, that’d be great. Mmmkay?”