Mike Woodson Must Put Amar'e Stoudemire on Bench for NY Knicks to Keep Jelling
Yes, the NBA season is still plenty young, but New York has rip-rolled through two playoff-bound opponents, posting an average margin of victory just over 19 points. One of those teams was the reigning champion Miami Heat, mind you.
Someone has been conspicuously absent during the Knicks' early rise to prominence, though. One player has not been on the court with his teammates, keeping the ball moving, playing vengeful defense and knocking down field goals at a collective rate of 45.6 percent.
That someone is Stoudemire, the explosive yet fragile power forward that was once the face of the New York franchise.
Now, however, he is nowhere to be found. Not until six to eight weeks deep into the campaign, according to the New York Times' Howard Beck.
Knicks just announced that Amare Stoudemire needs "left knee debridement" and is out approx. 6-8 weeks.— Howard Beck (@HowardBeckNYT) October 30, 2012
Prior to the start of the season, that timetable was supposed to cripple the already injury-riddled Knicks. This was supposed to be the year Anthony and Stoudemire finally had a legitimate chance at establishing chemistry, finally had an opportunity to prove their critics wrong.
But such an opportunity was squandered, as the pairing is now at the mercy of Stoudemire's surgically—yet not truly—repaired knees.
Which means it's time for New York's head coach Mike Woodson to do the unfathomable: relegate Stoudemire to a bench role.
I understand $20 million a year is a lot to pay for a "sixth man," but if the San Antonio Spurs can afford to pay Manu Ginobili $14 million to come off the bench, James Dolan and the Knicks can certainly afford to swallow a few more million to pay Stoudemire to do the same.
Let's be honest, though. Finances aren't the real issues here—concession is.
By bringing Amar'e off the bench, New York would be conceding he's fragile, the superstar himself would be admitting his days as a starter are over and the entire city would be conceding that the Anthony-Stoudemire pairing isn't working.
Well, in all honestly, Mr. Stoudemire, you are fragile and it's time for you and the organization to accept that.
You're a wonderful athlete and terrific leader, but you're also on the cusp of 30, have multiple knee surgeries under your belt to go along with 10 years worth of low-post wear and tear. Simply put, it's not time to admit you're days as a starter are over; it's time to concede you're not 22 anymore.
Plus, if relinquishing a starting role is the issue, Stoudemire and the Knicks can simply do what Frank Isola of the New York Daily News suggested on The Michael Kay Show: Let him run out of the tunnel with the starters, let him start the game, but take him out one minute in. Then he's free to play with the second unit.
Which is where he belongs.
Would that mean admitting the Anthony-Stoudemire pairing is a bust, conceding that this was the formidable duo it was supposed to be?
No, it wouldn't. Truth be told, we don't know how great or poorly these two can fair together because they haven't been given—mostly courtesy of Stoudemire's knees—an opportunity to prove anything.
But while we should by no means deem it a failure, it is time to toss the lofty expectations out the window and accept reality. And the reality is that no matter the end result, the process that gets them there is going to take time—which the Knicks don't have.
So, it's time for Woodson and company to work with what we all know.
We know that the Knicks are currently posting the largest win differential in the league. We know that they're holding opponents to an NBA-best 85.3 points per game. We know that Anthony posted a 29.5 PER last season at the power forward position and has notched 23.94 rating there thus far in 2012-13. We know that New York is currently one of only three unbeaten teams in the Association.
Most importantly, though, we know that this has all transpired without Stoudemire.
I'm not being cruel; those are just the facts. And the fact now is the Knicks would be unwise to mess with what they have going.
Could Anthony and Stoudemire co-exist in the same lineup? Perhaps, but it will take time, take plenty of dissection and even more sacrifice before such a conclusion can be drawn.
Thus I ask you, with New York's title window ajar for only three years, should the Knicks really waste time toiling with the unknown? Especially when success is staring them right in the face?
What role should Amar'e Stoudemire assume for Knicks upon his return?
It's time for 'Melo to realize that he, like LeBron James, is better at the 4. It's time for Woodson to admit that time is not on the Knicks' side. It's time for Stoudemire to admit his days of playing 30-plus minutes per game are over.
It's time for everyone involved to admit Stoudemire can help this team most coming off the bench, as a member of the second-unit, as a center who compresses defense for shooters like Steve Novak and J.R. Smith.
It's time to accept that this star-studded duo will never become what it was supposed to be.
Not because Stoudemire and Anthony are incapable of co-existing, but because the Knicks don't have time to see if they can.
Not if contending for a title is their immediate goal.
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