From opening day all the way through to their postseason elimination, the Knicks have been a hellacious roller coaster ride, but they're still not a bad team. And Anthony and Stoudemire are not a bad pairing.
Is something wrong? Yes.
Is that something Stoudemire? No. Anthony? No.
It's the entire team. The dynamic has been unstable since last February when Anthony arrived. Injuries to key players have prevailed and smaller than advertised sample sizes have been exaggerated and bought into.
This is not an excuse for the Knicks' playoff woes. The fact of the matter is that they were simply outmatched by the Miami Heat, though missing a large chunk of their starting lineup didn't help.
Despite the addition of three superstars, and despite seemingly limitless expectations, New York is still searching for its identity.
And you know what? That's not the end of the world.
Amid the quest for continuity, there have been numerous casualties, a la Mike D'Antoni. Most recently, though, Stoudemire has become the scapegoat for a number of reasons—his bloated contract, deteriorating athleticism and uncontrollable urge to instigate boxing matches between himself and inanimate objects.
Only a month ago, though, that was Anthony, sans the laceration. He was the problem, the one that needed to go.
Now, it's Stoudemire, the man who carried the Knicks for more than half a season a year ago. His name is being tossed around like it doesn't mean anything anymore, after Anthony carried New York to an impressive April without him.
And once again, assumptions are being drawn based on small sample sizes. Don't believe it? Well, come follow me.
Stoudemire and Anthony—including playoff contests—have yet to play a full season's worth of games together. They've played just 72 side-by-side. That's right, after 72 games and a combined 31-41 record, this experiment is already being called a failure.
As much as New York hates to acknowledge it, and as impatient as Knicks fans may be, it is far too early to draw profound conclusions for this pairing.
The team's display with both in the lineup was far from effective, going 18-21 on the season. However, if there was ever a season not to dwell too much on, it was this one.
And the truth is, Anthony and Stoudemire can coexist. We have seen it already.
When Anthony first arrived in New York, the Knicks went 12-12 to finish out the regular season, far from outstanding. During that span, though, Anthony averaged 26.3 points per game to Stoudemire's 23.9, a combined total of of 50.2.
Since the Knicks are constantly being compared to their superstar powerhouse counterpart in the Miami Heat, do we dare chance a glance at how they did? Yes, we dare.
Now, before you chime in below noting that James' and Wade's point totals were lower because of a power forward by the name of Chris Bosh, understand that it works both ways.
Bosh's presence undoubtedly "took" points away from James and Wade. He averaged 17.6 points per night over that 24-game span.
That said, his presence is what could have propelled Miami to a much better record than New York during the early stages. Or perhaps it was the luxury of a full-fledged training camp prior to the start of the season. Take your pick.
But again, these are not excuses, just facts.
Anthony and Stoudemire have yet to have a training camp together, yet to have gone through a steady flow of practices together and have yet to consistently experience the luxury that has allowed James and Wade to flourish alongside one another.
What might that luxury be? A distributor.
Like Anthony, James has spent much of his time in Miami assuming a point-forward role. He is tasked with jump-starting the offense, facilitating ball movement and creating opportunities for his teammates. Unlike Anthony, though, James is suited for such a role.
Anthony is, in fact, an underrated passer. That said, moving the ball and taking on the responsibilities of a point guard are just not in the genetic makeup of his basketball game. Subsequently, expecting him to succeed under such circumstances is unrealistic.
But that's what Anthony and Stoudemire need to succeed as a collective, a floor general. Thus far, they have only seen limited time together with one in Chauncey Billups and Jeremy Lin.
This season, the Knicks were 8-9 with Anthony, Lin and Stoudemire in the lineup, a tepid reflection to say the least. But that's just 17 games, hardly enough time to draw any valuable conclusions.
Formings of this magnitude take time, even with a playmaker at the helm. The Big Three in Miami were just 9-8 in their first 17 games together, hardly a more impressive result than New York's.
Where the Heat have had stability, the Knicks have been walking a tightrope.
What are we to base their potential cohesion off of? An injury-riddled, lockout-truncated season that hardly saw them play together or find time to practice together?
Pairing the two is not where it went wrong for the Knicks—though Stoudemire's contract is obnoxious and Anthony's price tag was ridiculous.
It went wrong for New York when the expectation was for these two to work it out on their own. Neither is the facilitator James is for Miami, and subsequently Stoudemire and Anthony need a catalyst to set the tone for them.
The lack of a true, fully developed point guard has been the downfall for this team, for Stoudemire and Anthony, from the beginning.
Billups wasn't as mobile as Raymond Felton before him, and the closest New York came to a bona fide playmaker since then is Lin, who was, and remains, inexperienced.
And now, after a second straight early postseason exit, the temptation to ship out either Anthony or Stoudemire will present itself to many. But it's not the answer, nor is moving Stoudemire to the bench.
The answer all along has been patience. Anthony, Stoudemire and the rest of the Knicks need continuity, stability and most importantly, a facilitator, areas the organization has remained deficient in since Day 1.
We already know that Anthony and Stoudemire can score in the same lineup, the most potent weapon in each of their arsenal. And that's half the battle.
The other half is finding someone who can balance their touches, and decide when and where they get the ball in their hands.
And whether it be Lin, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash or someone else, that's what the Knicks are up against moving into next season.
But what's important is there is a solution. New York is not past "fixing," and Anthony and Stoudemire are not an irreconcilable pairing; the Knicks are a work in progress, not a hopeless dose of chaos.
And yes, there is a difference.