Carmelo Anthony and his New York Knicks will be reunited with Amar’e Stoudemire before the end of the year. The New York Post reported that Stoudemire’s “goal is to return around Christmas.”
By that time, the Knicks could very well be 20-7, anchored to the Atlantic Division lead and the second seed.
There’s an accepted fact around the NBA, a grand myth almost, that the Carmelo-Amar’e pairing never worked and never will. Under this cloud, many Knicks fans are looking forward to Stoudemire’s return with some understandable trepidation.
Who wants to mess with what the Knicks have going? They are a top five team right now, having earned a spot alongside the Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder as one of the current Finals contenders.
But there is evidence that Stoudemire can make the Knicks even better, and that he and Anthony can work together quite well, especially under Mike Woodson. Not only that—there were already a few times this season the Knicks could have used Stoudemire, and they will surely need him over the course of this long season.
The Carmelo-Amar’e pairing, in fact, could take the Knicks to a whole new level.
Stats as of the end of Dec. 2 play.
When Carmelo Anthony joined the team after the 2011 All-Star Weekend, anticipation was thick in the air of New York City. The Knicks now had two superstars, 60 wins here we come!
But the Knicks continued on in their average ways, and worse. They went 6-3—not bad—in the first nine games after the trade. Then, they lost nine out of 10.
By the end of the 2010-11 season, the Knicks’ would be 12-12 when Anthony and Stoudemire paired up.
Things didn’t go too well for the twosome through 2011-12, either. Even with the Jeremy Lin streak, the Knicks as a whole went 18-24—until Mike Woodson took over.
Under Woodson, the Knicks finished off the season 18-6 and 8-2 with Anthony and Stoudemire suited up.
Sounds like a clean slate. Under Woodson, there have been no Carmelo-Amar’e compatibility issues.
Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire have played with the following starting point guards: Chauncey Billups, Jeremy Lin, Toney Douglas and Baron Davis.
Jeremy Lin and Toney Douglas were erratic in their handling of the two forwards. Baron Davis was finished. And Chauncey Billups never really connected with Stoudemire.
None of these four, including “Mr. Big Shot” Billups, were primary passers.
Anthony and Stoudemire have yet to play together with pass-first point guards that are more adept at an assisting role.
Raymond Felton has a known rapport with Stoudemire that should pick up where it left off. They will still run the pick-and-roll, and Felton is ready for STAT’s redeveloped post-up game.
It’s a proven fact now that Felton fits with Anthony too.
When Felton’s not on the court, the Knicks have two other pass-first point guards at the ready: Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni.
All three point guards have the experience and maturity to handle and satisfy both Anthony and Stoudemire.
ESPN agrees: Carmelo-Amar’e “never played with three seasoned point guards. Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni will help Anthony and Stoudemire get in the right spots to score.”
The Memphis Grizzlies had their way with the Knicks, handing New York its first loss of the season: a bruising 105-95 defeat.
The Carmelo-at-the-number-four mismatch that creates problems for so many teams lost its magic in Memphis. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol (260 pounds apiece) knocked the Knicks’ small-lineup around.
Against physical teams like the Grizzlies, or say, the L.A. Lakers, the Knicks will need to field a bigger team, with Anthony slipping back into his small forward role and Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler throwing their size around on the front line.
“It's about player location.” says ESPN.
The Knicks will benefit if Stoudemire stays away from the basket, roaming the inside mid- and high-posts. Carmelo Anthony can occupy the low post and share some mid-post with Stoudemire, with Anthony owning the point and the outside. Tyson Chandler sets up near the rim.
This spacing will work for all three players.
Stoudemire’s enhanced post-up game lends itself nicely to this setup, so long as Chandler is on the other side of the baseline when Amar’e moves in.
Stoudemire’s pick-and-roll and mid-range jumpers (if he can find his again) also are effective from this location.
And, for the most part, Carmelo’s game would be unaffected by Amar’e's positioning.
Defense will suffer, but this might give the offense a little jolt: Play Amar’e Stoudemire at center when Tyson Chandler hits the bench.
This is just another variation of the successful small ball the Knicks have been playing all season, just swapping the two biggest men on the roster.
Carmelo Anthony gets to move up to the number 4, where he has been supremely effective, and Stoudemire gets to play down low, where he is more of an versatile offensive threat than Chandler.
This makes additional sense when you take into account Marcus Camby’s injury-plagued season so far, and Kurt Thomas’ inability to clock the minutes.
By the way, isn’t this what the Knicks pretty much had going before Anthony came to town, unless you count Timofey Mozgov and Ronny Turiaf as legitimate centers?
The takeover is complete. Carmelo Anthony is the primary option of the offense and everybody else is the second option.
Really, the matter had been unsettled until now. Through the end of last season, the Knicks continued to struggle with feeding both superstars, deeming it a failure if both didn’t walk away with 20 PPG.
But who cares if Stoudemire only scores 15 points a game if Anthony is scoring 25-30 and the Chandler-led defense is holding opponents to under 90?
So what if J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton or even Steve Novak outscore Stoudemire regularly?
Assuming the Knicks’ Big Three each find enough room to operate, Stoudemire becomes as equal an option for Felton or Anthony to dish to as anybody else on the court.
It's time to put the Carmelo-Amar'e concerns to rest.
The two have proven already they can share the court under Mike Woodson to the team's benefit. It just so happens that the Knicks' winning percentage is better when both players start under Woody.
Not only is it unnecessary for Stoudemire to come off the bench—though that would work too—but the 2012-13 version of the Knicks might improve if he starts.
Instead of fearing Stoudemire's return, and his affect on a hot team, maybe it's important to recognize that the Knicks still need something more to get to the next level, to beat the Miami Heat and take the East.
Maybe that something more is Amar'e Stoudemire.