Amar'e Stoudemire hopes he won't have to watch the Eastern Conference Finals next season, and his work with Hakeem Olajuwon could make a huge difference.
According to ESPNNewYork.com's Jared Zwerling, by this August, all will have worked with NBA legend and post-up coach Hakeem Olajuwon. (Tyson Chandler could be joining Stoudemire in the workouts this summer as well.)
All three players who previously worked with Olajuwon have become much more versatile and intimidating on the offensive end—usually by the following year—helping balance their teams' offense.
Bryant's work with Olajuwon in 2009 certainly helped the Lakers win their second straight title. LeBron James' workouts last summer with "The Dream" were arguably key in the Miami Heat beating the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals, as his ability to both score and pass out of the painted area stretched the Thunder's defense.
After Howard worked with Olajuwon in the summer of 2010, the Magic center has been able to become a slightly better passer and scorer, though it hasn't translated to as much team success as it did for Bryant and James.
As far as the Knicks are concerned, a frontcourt of Carmelo Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler is an immensely talented one. But all three players must improve in other areas to help the Knicks become a championship-caliber team.
What will Amare Stoudemire and potentially Tyson Chandler's off-season post-game work with Hakeem Olajuwon do for the Knicks next season?
Bosh was never a great defender in Toronto, but he was able to block shots and make three-pointers against Oklahoma City in order to greatly impact that series. Dwyane Wade also became a great defensive presence as well, while sacrificing touches on the offensive end.
And, as noted above, James' improvement as a low-post player put even greater pressure on opposing defenses.
Some observers believe that, if Stoudemire were to redefine his game and develop into a low-post presence, the Knicks could become a less stagnant offense. ESPN's Zwerling notes in the article above that transforming the New York offense is part of head coach Mike Woodson's plan:
In this scenario, the Knicks could have more defined roles and less crowding on the court, which would lead to better ball movement and scoring opportunities. They also need to score more in the paint and have more bodies for offensive rebounds besides Chandler, as they finished this past season in the middle of the league in both categories.
Stoudemire has never been a consistent back-to-the-basket threat—he has mostly scored off drives, midrange jumpshots and pick-and-rolls—but if he can combine his intensity and aggressiveness with some new moves from Olajuwon, he could be a more complete threat.
Stoudemire looks to have a much busier offseason than usual. According to Zwerling:
Stoudemire is currently traveling overseas for a couple of weeks. Once he returns, he'll start a training program with a conditioning coach and physical therapist for his back. He suffered a bulging lower disk toward the end of this past season.
So will Hakeem Olajuwon's work with Stoudemire (and potentially Tyson Chandler) make the Knicks a champion?
While I don't believe it necessarily will this season, I think both Stoudemire and Chandler are in similar situations as LeBron and Kobe were: part of a talented lineup looking for that edge that puts their team over the top.
Opening up floor space will only help the Knicks in their pursuit of a championship. How much it will help toward obtaining that goal is the question.