From day one, it seems, Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire’s inability to make it work has haunted the back pages and hampered the New York Knicks’ progression to the next level.
It’s not rumor, either. It’s a fact: The Knicks, with this roster, cannot consider themselves in the same league as the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers and more, unless that frequently talked about Anthony-Stoudemire coexistence sizzles on the offensive end. And if it doesn’t, and the Knicks are bounced early in the postseason again after copping a lame seed, you can be sure the pair’s fizzle will still be reason No. 1 in fans’ conversations and on those back pages (and every other form of NBA media).
It is also a fact that not only have the dynamic duo failed to rescue Gotham from Round 1 exits, they have set the team back from its offensive heights during the brief Stoudemire-only era.
According to Sports Illustrated,
“New York scored only 98.5 points per 100 possessions with Anthony, Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler on the court together. That’s a mark that would have tied Toronto for 25th in points per possession.”
When the Stoudemire-Raymond Felton pick-and-roll under Mike D’Antoni ran the floor back in late 2010, the Knicks consistently posted a top-three offense. Defense was the big problem back then.
Tyson Chandler solved much of the team’s defensive malaise. And now with Marcus Camby in the mix and Mike Woodson running the show, the Knicks look further improved on that end.
But what about that offense, and the Knicks’ mismatch in Anthony and Stoudemire?
Amar’e Stoudemire’s offseason workouts with Hakeem Olajuwon to develop a strong back-to-the-basket game are well known by now.
Stoudemire’s post-up game is going to be the linchpin of any Anthony-Stoudemire effectiveness. Without it, we’ll be seeing essentially the same team as last year, one struggling to find an offensive coherence. Anthony will continue to feel the pressure of having to do it all himself, and he will execute on that, good or bad.
If Stoudemire is effective in the post, the Knicks will have a second equally-deadly offensive option. He will be able to either take it to the hoop or kick it out (to Anthony amongst others) for a score, or look for Raymond Felton for a reset.
An experienced, pass-first point guard is essential for the Anthony-Stoudemire offense to work.
The Knicks have found their man, assuming he returns to his old Knicks form, in Raymond Felton.
Since Felton’s departure and accounting for Chauncey Billups’ injury, New York has not had a consistent 1 capable of feeding both Anthony and Stoudemire.
When the game strikes a high tempo, it’s a given that Felton will be able to get the ball to Stoudemire, as in the past.
Now, with STAT hanging in the low post, the two will hopefully connect more often in the half-court game, as well.
Meanwhile, Anthony can still be the primary focus of the Knicks offense, and Felton’s first option.
Carmelo Anthony does seem ready to cede some offensive control—or at least he says so on the surface.
CBS reported from Knicks Media Day, quoting Anthony: "[I'm not] going to try to score 30-40 points a game. Don't get me wrong, I'm still going to score."
Perfectly said, actually. We want Anthony to continue scoring somewhere between 25 and 30 points a game, but to also not hold the ball for too long and look for other options when he is holding it.
Remember ball-hog Anthony who would claim the ball early in an offensive set and hold it until a shot opened up? This Newsday quote doesn't sound like him:
"But [Amar'e] going down there and putting me on the wing, now I get to play off of him rather than me going down there and him playing off of me, which could be a deadly weapon if it all works out."
That didn't happen at all last season.
Amar'e Stoudemire's new-found post-up game will lead to more points in another way: from the foul line.
In 2011-12, a tentative Stoudemire found himself on the free-throw line less times than any full year of his career: a meager 5.2 attempts per game for a big 4.
By adding the low-post dimension, the Knicks effectively triple their offense when Stoudemire takes the ball inside: He can take it in, kick it out or more often draw the foul.
If he can get that free-throw percentage back up to 80 percent, he and the Knicks will add more points to the team's bottom line, and collect those critical points in close games' dwindling minutes.
The media, fans, Charles Barkley, Charles Oakley, Phil Jackson and other NBA notables will be watching.
They are all guilty of writing off the New York Knicks, and the Carmelo Anthony-Amar'e Stoudemire pairing in particular.
CBS New York reported Barkley as saying: “It’s not going to work, and it’s not going to click...I’m not a believer that a leopard can change its spots.”
The Daily News asked disgruntled former Knick, Oakley, his opinion: "I think the problem with the Knicks is that their best two guys don’t make the people around them better."
And, according to ESPN Phil Jackson said, "I wasn't gonna take that job; that's for sure...[The Knicks are] clumsy...They don't fit together well. (Amar'e) Stoudemire doesn't fit well with Carmelo (Anthony)."
And the media and Garden crowd will let the team know of any slip.
Anthony, Stoudemire, Mike Woodson and the Knicks will need to ignore all of this.
Even better, they should feed off that negative chatter and let it inspire them to prove the naysayers wrong.