With all of the drama and uncertainty surrounding the New York Knicks, forward Amar'e Stoudemire has had the most tumultuous season of all.
Stoudemire, the perennial All-Star, lost his brother in a car accident on Feb. 6. His brother, Hazell, was a role model for the NBA star, and his death was obviously unexpected. The crash in Florida saw Hazell rear-end a tractor trailer at a high speed. He was not wearing a seat-belt.
As the Knicks try to figure things out, it is clear that Stoudemire is still on the road to recovery. Amar'e is averaging 17.4 points per game this year, playing in 38 games thus far.
Although still a threat offensively, Stoudemire has lost a step in his repertoire, and he has lost the explosion that made him the best pick-and-roll player in the game.
For fans, their frustration with his inconsistent play must be put into perspective.
Every player on the Knicks is feeling pressure. From Carmelo Anthony to Mike Bibby, the entire roster wants to get back on track, something they have been able to do since Mike D'Antoni resigned as head coach.
Woodson has shown tenacity on the sideline, displaying discipline and leadership that D'Antoni seemed to lack on the sideline. Last night, for example, he gave JR Smith an earful for an alley-oop play when winning big at the end of the game.
The last two games has shown the Knicks showboat at the end of big wins, something the eight-seed has no right doing. Thankfully for New York, Woodson will not put up with it.
The win over Portland was expected, but last night's victory over the fifth-seed Indiana was impressive. Woodson has shown little hesitation to keep the hot hand on the floor, even if it is a player off the bench.
With the depth of the team shining, Amar'e Stoudemire needs to take a deep breath and compose himself. With the pressure on everyone involved with the franchise, Amar'e has the added burden of the loss of his brother.
When Stoudemire took time off from the team to attend funeral services, this was just the beginning of the healing process. With Jeremy Lin making the forward smile during his time of grief, Stoudemire returned to a better team than the one he left.
After Lin-sanity ended, the reality of Amar'e's loss certainly was magnified. Riding a high, Amar'e was able to use the Knicks' success as a distraction. As the team cooled off and the critics began to squawk, the bad press certainly darkened the mood around the team.
For every player, this press was detrimental, but for a player with recent personal tragedy, the negative energy has even more power.
2012 has been an emotional roller coaster for the Knicks, trying to find stability on the court and on the coaching staff. As the Knicks aim for a playoff spot, Amar'e must focus his energy on basketball, and fans need to give him a break.
Fans need to remember that he only had a few days with his family following the tragedy, and the loss of a brother for anyone would be extremely tough. For many, they would need months or years to get over an unexpected tragedy, but we expect Amar'e to get over it in about a week.
As coach Mike Woodson changes the offensive philosophy, the ball with be in the hands of the superstars. For the Knicks, this means that Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony will get the touches that they have missed since Lin entered the fray.
As Amare continues to grieve, his increased touches will make him feel young again. He will need to find the energy to get above the rim, something that has been lacking thus far.
The superstar must be aggressive on the boards and on defense if the Knicks are going to make a run at a reasonable playoff seed.
Moving forward, Amar'e will only improve. I myself forgot about his personal tragedy over the last few drama-filled weeks.
As the smoke settles from the D'Antoni era, Stoudemire can concentrate on what's important: family and basketball. If he can compose his emotions and move towards closure, the team will benefit greatly.
Fans need to realize that Amar'e is not getting traded and is a quality player. His production will increase in the new-look offense, and his mental health will improve as well.
As the team supports him on and off the court, Amar'e can concentrate on his family while trying to get the Knicks to the playoffs.
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