Amar'e Stoudemire: D
When Amar'e Stoudemire walked to the scorer's table at the 3:31 mark in the first quarter, Madison Square Garden rose in unison, as the assembled fans collectively greeted their returning star with a standing ovation.
Things got a little quieter when Amar'e spun baseline on LaMarcus Aldridge on his first touch...and promptly stepped out of bounds.
The turnover on STAT's initial play turned out to be harbinger of things to come, as Stoudemire struggled in every facet of the game.
He missed his first five field-goal attempts, coming up short on jumpers and failing to create enough space to drop in a couple of close-range hooks in the paint. Despite his struggles, Stoudemire clearly had an aggressive mindset, as he looked for his own shot on every touch.
Defensively, things went from bad to worse.
Portland made a concerted effort to attack Stoudemire, making sure to involve him in repeated pick-and-pops when he was matched up with LaMarcus Aldridge and pick-and-rolls when he checked J.J. Hickson. Unable to move quickly enough to recover to Aldridge after showing on the ball-handler, Stoudemire surrendered a handful of wide-open jumpers to the Blazers' sweet-shooting big man.
And when he tried to stay with the more athletic Hickson on repeated rolls to the hoop, Stoudemire was even more exposed. Hickson waltzed to the bucket with impunity, hammering in dunks as Amar'e watched helplessly.
To be fair, there were actually two bright spots for Stoudemire.
One came on a nice weak-side block of an Aldridge layup, but even that turned out poorly for the Knicks, as Hickson pinned Amar'e on his back before securing an offensive rebound for an easy dunk. The other was a baseline dunk off of a J.R. Smith assist that showcased some pretty good elevation for a guy coming off of knee surgery.
Beyond that, Stoudemire was generally slow to help on D, and his late rotations yielded plenty of easy buckets for Hickson and a couple of spectacular layups from Damian Lillard.
From a tactical perspective, Woodson seemed committed to using Stoudemire with J.R. Smith and the second unit, but it was no coincidence that the Knicks made their biggest push during the early minutes of the third quarter and the end of the fourth. Stoudemire wasn't on the floor during either of those stretches.
Stoudemire avoids a failing grade because he's still obviously rusty after a long layoff and because it's still too early to tell what he'll do to the Knicks' solid chemistry. Still, it's hard to be encouraged by the shaky offense and downright awful defense he showed against the Blazers.