Amar'e Stoudemire has proved to be immovable.
No, seriously, he has.
This past summer, the Knicks offered Stoudemire to nearly every team in the league — “available for free,” as one rival executive put it. But they found no takers because of his diminished production, his health and his contract, which has three years and $65 million remaining (counting this season) and which is uninsured against a career-ending knee injury.
In February, the Knicks wanted to send Stoudemire to Toronto in a deal for Andrea Bargnani, a person briefed on the discussion said. But the proposal was vetoed by James L. Dolan, the Garden chairman, before it ever reached the Raptors (who would not have made the deal anyway, team officials there said).
Before that, the Knicks tried to package Stoudemire and Chandler in a bid to land Dwight Howard.
It has been debated to no end as to who has the league's worst contract. Stoudemire's name has been a part of the fold since 2010, but with players like Joe Johnson, Gilbert Arenas and Rashard Lewis running around, conclusions were open to interpretation.
But that no longer holds true.
Arenas and Lewis are but financial burdens of the past—Stoudemire isn't. As for Johnson? Well, not only has he actually played this season, but his contract was moved over the offseason. Stoudemire's wasn't. Considering Johnson is owed over $20 million more than Stoudemire, that says something.
It says everything.
But if everything isn't enough, there's also the fact that Stoudemire's contract isn't insured for a dime. A complete absence of durability made sure of that.
An actual immovable contract.
We can continue to argue that there will always be a taker for anyone in the NBA, but Stoudemire has proven just the opposite. Even the Toronto Raptors, a team desperate for a star, doesn't want any part of his contract.
Because this isn't the same Stoudemire who signed with the Knicks back in 2010. This isn't the same Stoudemire who revived a dying franchise. This isn't the same Stoudemire who all but quelled the concerns of financial enthusiasts everywhere just two years ago.
No, this is someone different. Someone worse.
I feel compelled to admit that I still believe Stoudemire can help the Knicks; I still believe that he will make them better.
But I don't believe he will return to dominance—not $100 million worth of dominance and certainly not the level of supremacy he is expecting to achieve (via Jared Zwerling of ESPNNewYork.com) upon his return:
"I feel better than I did two days ago," he said. "I hope I feel better tomorrow and two days from now. I’m going to continue to try to improve and get to 100 percent. I’m still working towards that."
He said he's on pace "to return back to dominance."
It's not that we have forgotten about all he has done. It's that he's no longer capable of having the same impact. Not when his knees are beyond frail.
And this is something we began to realize only last season, one year after Stoudemire had what many considered an MVP-type campaign.
You remember the crusade to which I'm referring: the one where he averaged 25.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and a career-high 2.6 assists per game on 50.2 percent shooting from the floor. The one where he publicly endorsed Carmelo Anthony's arrival.
The same one that's seemingly a distant memory.
This is now a Stoudemire who has yet to play this season. A Stoudemire who averaged just 17.5 points per game on 48.3 percent shooting last season. A Stoudemire who is now an afterthought (a borderline rotational hindrance) in New York.
Whether or not you are receptive to the Knicks distaste for Stoudemire is irrelevant, because there is cause for concern.
Bear in mind that, aside from the disappointing point totals, New York was visibly worse last year with Stoudemire on the floor. When he was on the hardwood, their top-11 defense allowed 103.7 points per 100 possessions. With him riding the pine, though, that number fell to just 99.1.
But that's the risk you take with Amar'e, right? He's a defensive liability, but he makes up for it on offense, correct? His sheer presence alone is enough to compress the defense and make a positive impact, right?
Um, no. Not anymore at least.
New York's offense scored at a rate of 101.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor. Without him that number rose to 107.5.
Once again, this is not to say Stoudemire will fail to help the Knicks this time around, nor does it bring into question his commitment to the team. But it is an irrefutable indication that he isn't the same player he once was.
The same player who once served as an inspiration to all of New York. The same player who was the heart and soul of this Knicks team. The same player who wasn't worth $100 million then.
No, he's different.
He's worth even less now.
*All stats in this article are accurate as of December 24, 2012.
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