During Thursday night's 114-104 Spurs victory over Phoenix, a startling reality became apparent—even Steve Nash plays better defense than Amare Stoudemire.
In the second half, Nash was caught defending Tony Parker one-on-one in the paint. Nash bodied up his Spurs counterpart, successfully keeping his body between Parker and the basket despite the Frenchman's plethora of pivot moves.
Parker was finally forced to take an extremely difficult fading floater. The basket went in, but that's not the point—Nash played solid defense, and it was only Parker's ability that overcame the effort.
Stoudemire, on the other hand—the same Amare Stoudemire who has expressed a desire to be "the man"—played with the defensive intensity and intelligence of a high school JV post player.
Early in the fourth quarter, Phoenix was caught scrambling on defense thanks to the Spurs' ball movement. As the ball was swung around the three-point line, Stoudemire was the last perimeter player available to rotate. When the ball was snapped to Roger Mason, who is shooting 45.7 percent from 3-point range this season, Stoudemire committed to a half-hearted attempt to close out the shooter. Mason nailed the shot which was ruled a two-pointer.
Stoudemire was non-existent on several occasions as Parker and Manu Ginobili repeatedly sliced and diced the Suns' defense. It got to the point where outside-shooting forward Matt Bonner felt confident enough to drive on the All-Star starter.
Rebounding is the capstone to good defense for a post player. You force your man to miss a bad shot and grab the rebound—mission accomplished (for that possession, anyway). Stoudemire gave up at least four offensive rebounds in the game's final stages.
If Stoudemire were as passionate about his defensive game as his offensive production, plays like that would not happen.
Instead of improving his defensive technique with the same enthusiasm as his jump shot, he's content to put his arms straight up and pray he doesn't get a foul called. That's how he actually makes an effort to play defense.
When he expressed his desire to be "the man," Stoudemire mentioned specific players in the league, including Dwight Howard, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade.
Hey, Amare, those names should be a hint as to why you're not "the man" you crave to be.
Those three players are almost certain locks to be named All-Defensive First or Second Team selections this season. Let's compare each of their stats with Stoudemire's: Wade is averaging more blocks-per-game (1.3 to 1.1), James is grabbing more defensive rebounds per game (6.1 to 6.0) and Howard is destroying Stoudemire in every conceivable defensive category.
Take the hint from the stats, or even from the historical example of Michael Jordan. Early in his career he realized that offensive numbers weren't going to be enough for his own credentials or the team's. It was because of that realization and the actual application of it that Jordan became Defensive Player of the Year and led the league in scoring in the same season.
You want to be the man? Man up, and play some "D."
- Grant Hill was running and finishing like it was 1997. Hill finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds in 36 minutes of playing time, making viewers appreciate both his talent and his will to keep playing despite seven years of injured misery during his prime.
- The Spurs had 16 assists as a team. Steve Nash had 18 assists by himself.
- If Manu Ginobili doesn't shoot (and make) 18 free throws, the Spurs only win the charity stripe battle by one.
- The Cavs and Magic have a striking similarity—their offense consists of one superstar and a bunch of shooters. Orlando won the contest Thursday night 98-88. That probably didn't help refute the logic of Orlando sending three all-stars to Phoenix, while the Cavs will be represented by James alone.
- Mike Brown really is like LeBron's dad. Whenever he thinks LeBron was fouled and the whistle isn't blown, Brown just loses it. Maybe it's because he knows his job would be toast of James were to ever suffer a long-term injury.
- Orlando's "under the radar" theme is exemplified by Hedo Turkoglu. Despite the fact that many think he's the man that makes it work for Orlando, he was not extended an invitation for All-Star Weekend. Turkoglu responded with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Touché.