As I wrote on Twitter last night, there’s almost nothing to take away from Amar’e Stoudemire’s debut in terms of what the Knicks can expect from him going forward. This was his first game in nine months. How good he’ll be, and how quickly, is a complete unknown, even to him. His skills varied significantly even within his first game. Knowing what they’ll be, with regularity, going forward is simply impossible after one game, and no recovery days.
As far as what he’ll bring to the Knicks, the way Portland’s defense treated him allowed a first-hand look. They paid him significant attention, with the concentration providing the Knicks with the kind of perimeter looks they’ve only been getting with Carmelo Anthony on the floor this season. The space also allowed for someone like Chris Copeland to operate on the opposite side from Stoudemire, and it is easy to envision similar lobs to Tyson Chandler or even Marcus Camby in the space created by Stoudemire’s presence. And, to Stoudemire’s benefit, vice versa.
What we also learned is that putting Stoudemire and Anthony on the floor, minus a Chandler or Camby, is a horrific defensive idea. It is theoretically possible that group could outscore an opponent; the defensive limitations of those two in the front court, alone, might not make it actually possible. It is worth waiting to see what Stoudemire can be, offensively, since he was dominant as recently as last March, and for most of his career prior to that. But he’s never been a good defensive player, lacking more in skill than in effort on that end.
Also, if there were any worries that the mere presence of Stoudemire would ruin Anthony offensively, well, he scored 45 points while Stoudemire played just under 17 minutes. Now, it may be that more Stoudemire time will come at the expense of having Anthony on the court for 41 minutes plus, as he was Tuesday night. But no one should view this as a bad thing: some extra rest for Anthony, and letting someone else carry part of the offensive load, will only add life to Anthony’s legs come May, while giving the Knicks an offensive alternative, should Anthony miss time, to simply hoping their threes go in.
And that dynamic is also at the heart of why worries that adding Stoudemire can ruin the Knicks don’t make any sense. Or, at least, I can’t follow the logic. Come with me and see why.
Scenario one: Stoudemire plays really, really well off the bench. The Knicks, accordingly, start winning with regularity. Exactly where will the push come to change things up, and insert Stoudemire in the starting lineup? They’re winning!
Scenario two: Stoudemire doesn’t play so well, and the Knicks still win consistently. Exactly where will the push come to change things up, and insert Stoudemire in the starting lineup? He’s not healthy/effective enough to be in there?
Scenario three: Stoudemire struggles, and so do the Knicks. Exactly what will the Knicks, at that point, have to lose by trying Anthony and Stoudemire together? But in this scenario, it isn’t Stoudemire who is causing the team to struggle. He’s a possible solution.
Really, though, this is a brand-new team. The starting five that helped the Knicks to their hugely successful start is no more. Raymond Felton is out; Jason Kidd is playing a new position; Ronnie Brewer is a shell of the player who started so strong. Even Tyson Chandler isn’t 100 percent at the moment, thanks to an ankle injury.
The problems the current Knicks face predate Amar’e Stoudemire’s return. And having a player of his caliber return should help the Knicks to solve those problems, if in a different way than they did back in November.