As much as some NBA fans may love New York Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire, we can all agree that his lack of toughness on defense is frustrating. Despite career marks of 8.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, the man has always been known for his scoring abilities.
Fortunately, he made a name for himself playing in the run-and-gun game of Mike D'Antoni, for four-plus years in Phoenix and one-and-a-half in New York.
However, Stoudemire now simply must work on his defense since his coach, Mike Woodson, is a defensive mind. He is on board with this approach, but not without making some ridiculous comments about his game.
You see, Stoudemire recently spoke to Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News, and had an interesting take on the lack of defense that has dogged him throughout his career:
I think having a defensive coach for the first time in my career is going to help. I’ve never been taught defense in my whole career. So to now have a coach who actually teaches defense and teaches strategies and knows positioning and posture and how to guard different plays, it’s going to be helpful.
Um...excuse me?? I understand where Stoudemire is coming from, but to say that D'Antoni is the reason he has never been a strong defender makes zero sense.
First of all, even though the high-scoring Suns teams D'Antoni coached were fairly weak on defense, Stoudemire himself managed to put up decent numbers in that department while the offensive guru was his coach. Under his tutelage, Stoudemire averaged 9.1 boards and 1.7 blocks per contest.
Stoudemire's argument also has zero credibility because of the type of player he is. Sure, he is best known as a scoring big man, but look at what I just called him: a scoring big man.
Stoudemire is 6'11", 245 pounds. On the NBA level, that means that coaches will expect him to be a defensive force.
More importantly, what about when the man was in high school? In his senior year at Cypress Creek High School in Orlando, Florida, Stoudemire averaged 29.1 points, 15 rebounds and 6.1 blocks per game.
Granted, Stoudemire was probably the biggest guy on the court and the numbers are thus a bit inflated, but the fact remains that he was taught how to play defense and knows how to use it. His being a better offensive player is borderline coincidental, particularly due to having D'Antoni as a coach, but it can be argued that he also focused on that part of his game by choice.
Do Stoudemire's words have any merit?
The man's comments and excuses about not playing strong defense are thus ridiculous. Throughout most of his career, Stoudemire has had the size of a player a coach would see and automatically think, "Defense!"
Now let's take a look at Stoudemire today. He has been in the league since 2003, has made more money than most people will ever make in a lifetime, and now he's saying it isn't his fault that he never learned defense?
Let me put it this way. The fact alone that he has been coached by defensive minds in Terry Porter and Mike Woodson, not to mention assistant coaches with certain specialties, is proof that Stoudemire has been taught defense. More importantly, wouldn't he have asked how to improve his performance in that department?
The honest truth is probably this. Stoudemire was definitely taught how to play defense early in his career and just didn't listen to his coaches, or he is the only player in NBA history who has not been taught squat.
His remarks about Mike D'Antoni are thus highly unfair, not to mention hyperbolic. The fact is that Stoudemire has been taught how to play defense, but just chose not to use it in his game.
If his words are true, however, then there is no reason that he should not perform better on defense in the near future. Otherwise, he'll have cemented his status as an offensive player with an attitude, and there's no room for that in Mike Woodson's system.