There's currently an elephant in the New York Knicks' locker room in the form of Amar'e Stoudemire's contract.
I could give you a dozen reasons that lobby for the Knicks to keep Stoudemire in orange and blue, but there are definite risks involved.
Stoudemire is under a strikingly similar contract to the one Allan Houston signed with New York in 2007. He is owed more than $65 million over the next three years and will be tasked with playing through a slew of past injuries.
While the door is open for Stoudemire to play up to his potential, it's also wide open for the Knicks to get burned. He is coming off the worst season of his career since his rookie year and his ability to coexist with Carmelo Anthony—the cornerstone he lobbied to play alongside—has been scrutinized to no end.
Despite coming off a lackluster season, though, Stoudemire's reputation precedes him. He can play the 4 or stretch the floor further at the 5, and prior to this year, shot over 50 percent from the field for five consecutive seasons.
And though Stoudemire is a liability on defense, he has a history of being explosive on offense. He proved only last season that it was ball movement—not solely Steve Nash—that fueled his prowess. He's still a player a team can build around.
Both the Knicks and Stoudemire can chalk up his struggles last season to the lockout, fluke injuries and an unfamiliar roster, but what if it's not? What if Stoudemire has officially started to not only decline, but embark on a one-way journey toward rock bottom?
Unless the Knicks are completely sure that Stoudemire will return to form next season, that's a risk they cannot afford to take. And after watching players like Patrick Ewing and Allan Houston deteriorate right before their eyes, how can they be sure?
They can't. Today, New York is still a powerhouse, but that reputation rests on Stoudemire's surgically repaired knees and back, which, at this point, isn't much.
The fact is, Stoudemire can turn the Knicks into a tangible silhouette of the team they were during the Scott Layden and Isiah Thomas eras—a team that is defined not by their talent, but by their financial dead weight.
Right now, Stoudemire is not dead weight, but if last season was any indication, he could be well on his way.
The Knicks don't have to wait and find out, though. They don't have to perpetuate the string of seeing impulsive contracts all the way through. They still have an opportunity to capitalize off Stoudemire's remaining market value.
And if that's an avenue they're looking to explore, they must do so now—before it's too late, before the bad outweighs the good, before his contract renders such a pursuit impossible.
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