As the return approaches, a lot of thoughts point to how Amar'e is going to fit back into the lineup. Will he screw up the team's chemistry and its rotations?
Obviously, Amar'e is still a good basketball player. With or without his knee problems, he can be a positive influence on this team if all things go right.
Even last season—one in which he "struggled"—he was shooting 48 percent from the field, scoring 17.5 points per game, grabbing 7.8 rebounds and doing a decent job racking up the glamor defensive stats, with a block and just under a steal per game.
Defensively, Amar'e was still Amar'e. He struggled with rotations, and he's noticeably slower since his legs turned on him, but he's big, which is worth something.
The notion that there's no way he's able to help this team is nothing short of laughable. There's still basketball left in that body, regardless of the fact that he's overpaid and not worth what he was with the Phoenix Suns.
Even still, it's a delicate ecosystem that they're introducing Amar'e into, and it's going to have to be handled with care, lest they completely derail a squad that has become the second-best team in the Western Conference.
It seems to me that the Knicks need to ensure three things in order to make this a smooth transition for Stoudemire.
First, they have to start out with Amar'e coming in off the bench. It's the best way to run him out there with a lot of different lineups without putting him into the starting lineup too soon.
There's going to need for a period of time in which the Knicks get him in with as many different lineups as possible, that way he figures out the best way to work himself into the lineup, without taking a huge number of minutes away from anybody else.
Plus, it's going to allow for him to ease back into the game, putting as little pressure as possible on his knees as he gets back up to speed.
Second, he's going to have to carve out a role before he gets put into the starting lineup.
The Knicks have a very well thought-out set of roles on their team. Carmelo Anthony is the scorer and Tyson Chandler is the scorer. Jason Kidd is the team's Alka Seltzer, settling things down if they get out of hand, Raymond Felton is the sometimes-on, sometimes-off frustrating point guard, and J.R. Smith is the wild card.
The rest of the team works as defensive or three-point specialists.
If Amar'e can find a role as a slasher, a high-post scorer, or even just a guy to work with in transition or in a two-man game with Anthony, that's going to be a fine role to fill.
If he wants to come back and be a primary scorer, he needs to pump the breaks and work as a here-and-there type scorer.
Once he figures out his role and gets his NBA-paced wind back, then it's time to get him back into the starting lineup.
The notion that he should become the team's sixth man is a bit silly. Amar'e is one of their five best players, and he's going to work best if they can have him out on the floor as much as possible.
I'm still not sure if he would work best in a power forward or a small forward role, but that's really only going to matter on defense.
Anthony is going to continue to draw the opponent's best defender, while Amar'e will have to work out how to deal with playing an off-ball role.
It's going to be an interesting first month or so, but in the end I do have confidence that they can pull it out, especially after seeing Mike Woodson be so creative with his lineups this season.