The Knicks are dominating the Eastern Conference. They have beaten the reigning NBA champions, the Miami Heat, twice by 20 points or more. More importantly, they are playing a type of team basketball that has many people believing that they might just be able to go all the way.
“This is the team that is going to give the Heat the most trouble because they have the perimeter players,” Johnson said on the radio Friday.
He’s absolutely right. The Knicks have Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Ronnie Brewer, JR Smith, Pablo Prigioni and, when he returns, Iman Shumpert. Those six guards are able to stop Dwayne Wade to an extent. In the past, teams would get into foul trouble and would lose their best guards because of Wade’s style of play. But even if Felton were to go to the bench, an equally as impressive point guard—Prigioni—would come on.
In other words, the Knicks are stacked.
They’re about to get even more stacked. With Amar’e Stoudemire coming back, the Knicks have a very talented power forward who can be a second scoring option in the event that Carmelo Anthony is off for the night or is getting double-teamed. But the simple fact of the matter is that the Knicks are crushing it in the East, and the idea of bringing Stoudemire in to start has many fans nervous.
Stoudemire needs to act as he told his sources he would and become an off-the-bench threat. There are two reasons for that. The first one is, as Magic Johnson continued to say, “Amar’e Stoudemire has got to come off the bench and be happy with that role because if he does that I’ll tell you this right now, the Knicks have a chance to win the championship and that’s for real.”
The Knicks have a tremendous opportunity to win a championship. They are built to beat the Heat and have done it twice already. But Johnson is right: at least for a while, Stoudemire needs to come off the bench.
Let’s take the whole “not messing up the chemistry” discussion off the table. Let’s look at this strictly from a basketball perspective.
After Carmelo Anthony, who is the go-to offensive threat? J.R. Smith, it could be argued, is that spark off the bench, but the truth is he’s a streaky baller. He plays great defense and hustles every night, but as was seen in Charlotte, he can go tremendously cold at times.
When players start to come off the floor—whether that’s Chandler or Melo—someone is going to have to come in to be the second threat. With Stoudemire coming off the bench, the Knicks get 48 minutes of nonstop aggressive offense. Felton and Stoudemire can run the pick-and-roll smoothly. Stoudemire will be the focus of the offense when he is coming off the bench.
If Stoudemire were to start, there’s a good chance he’d mess with the flow of the offense, at least to start. There’s no doubt that with the elite point guards the Knicks have this year, they’d make it work. But why force the issue when he can be a 25-plus-minute bench player who scores with ease?
The real conversation is about the last few minutes of the game when a win is on the line. Who plays: Melo, Chandler or Stoudemire? What combination of the three? Do all three play?
That depends entirely on the team’s needs and the situation. But as said above, there’s no doubt that the three players can mesh together. What happened before Mike Woodson doesn’t matter because he wasn’t the coach. Looking at the record of Stoudemire playing with Melo and Chandler, they are actually OK together. And this year they have great point guards backing them up.
Johnson added, “He’s got to say, you know what? This team is playing great I’m going to play any role that they want me to play…if that’s coming off the bench, if that’s going to help us own a championship…This is not about his ego because his ego will be [fine] if they win the championship.”
Stoudemire wants to win. He wants to be loved in New York. With these New York Knicks and with his body coming back in great shape, he increases the likelihood that the Knicks dominate in the playoffs and win their first championship in decades.
Jacob writes about the NBA as a whole, but he has a slight passion for the New York Knicks. He is co-founder of Curave.