New York Knicks: The Easy Solution to Handling Amar'e Stoudemire's Return
Despite all the fanfare over whether or not Stoudemire has a role on this team, there's actually a pretty simple solution to the situation.
As ESPN analyst and former head coach Jeff Van Gundy said on the December 11th broadcast of the Knicks-Nets game, what the Knicks need to do is establish a three-man rotation at the power forward and center positions.
At this point, the general consensus seems to be that Stoudemire would be best utilized off the bench—at least in his first few appearances—but Van Gundy went even further with his thoughts on exactly how that should work.
No matter whether he starts or not, Stoudemire is likely going to be playing major minutes, so simply having him on the bench won't necessarily help to avoid the chemistry issues that plagued the frontcourt for much of last season.
Instead, what the Knicks should do is have Stoudemire play at power forward alongside Tyson Chandler for the 15 minutes or so when Carmelo Anthony is off the floor, and vice versa at center when Chandler is off the floor.
This way, Stoudemire can be the undisputed number one pick-and-roll option when playing with Melo, and have some more space to work in the high post when playing with Chandler. It also allows the Knicks to fill the rest of the floor with shooters in both situations, as well as when Melo and Chandler are out there.
More importantly, it keeps Anthony at the 4 in most situations, where he has caused some major match-up issues for opposing teams this season.
Melo and Chandler will still be playing around the same minutes that they are now (maybe even a little less to give them a deserved break), and Stoudemire will have around 30 minutes to work with himself.
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Of course, it would be unwise for the Knicks to stick to this rotation too strictly, and there will inevitably be times when all three players are on the court together. And with big men like Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby on the bench, there's also a good chance that Mike Woodson will want to use them in certain situations.
In fact, though it would make things easier, there isn't even an absolute need to have Stoudemire coming off the bench, so long as there is a concerted effort to make sure that only two of the star frontcourt players are on the court together at any one time.
Against bigger teams like Memphis and San Antonio that the Knicks have struggled against, it would make sense for them to retain the flexibility to move Melo back to the 3 against more imposing bigs. A trio of Melo, Stoudemire and Chandler could definitely match up physically with most teams if nothing else.
Generally, this is a situation that has been blown out of proportion; probably just because it's been so long since we've seen Stoudemire pick up a basketball.
What we have to remember is that Stoudemire is still a fantastic power forward who is more than capable of contributing to the success of this Knicks team.
Last season was just a horrible situation in general for "Stat."
Due to injuries, he wasn't able to play in the lockout-extended offseason, and his body clearly wasn't ready when the season started. With those injuries nagging him all season long and his brother passing away in February, it was hard for Stoudemire to play at a high level.
Now, Stoudemire has had plenty of time to rehab from his knee injury and, with the Knicks sitting atop the Eastern Conference already, is coming back to a situation that he can really be eased into.
The Knicks now have a head coach that Amar'e has an 9-2 record with so far, and a point guard in Raymond Felton who he had so much success with back in 2010-11. Things could not be better.
Stoudemire is only 30 and clearly has a lot of good basketball left in him. If he can combine this with the team-first attitude he has expressed in recent weeks (and frankly much of his career) it can only mean good things for the Knicks.
There was so much hype last year about the Knicks possibly having the best frontcourt in the NBA, and the talent was certainly there. But despite not quite meeting expectations last season, if they can fit their pieces together properly this time round, they may well state their claim this season.
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