With J.R. Smith’s future up in the air, the only viable scoring option on the New York Knicks' roster is Carmelo Anthony. Granted, Anthony is one of the best scorers in the league, but one guy can’t do it alone—the team learned that the hard way this year. In 2014, Amar’e Stoudemire needs to become the team’s second option offensively.
STAT played in just 29 games off the bench this season after dealing with a knee injury that kept him out of the beginning and end of the season. In the playoffs he was nonexistent, contributing less than four points per game.
Stoudemire showed flashes of his former self—the guy who the Knicks signed for $100 million—during the regular season. He averaged 14.2 points and five rebounds a night and scored 20 points or more on seven different occasions. Whether or not Stoudemire will be featured in the starting lineup next season is uncertain.
The problem with STAT is that he’s always injured. Always. When he’s healthy and engaged, however, he can contribute a lot to New York’s dynamic offense that desperately lacked interior scoring last season. The Knicks led the league in three-pointers made and attempted, but ranked dead last in points in the paint (per TeamRankings.com).
Olajuwon has turned his full-court basketball gym into an NBA player development center during the summers, and he reportedly charges $50,000 a week for private instruction. He has worked one-on-one with Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and LeBron James.
Stoudemire will continue to build on the post-up moves and defensive maneuvers he learned from Olajuwon last summer. The big reasons behind the collaboration were: (1) to give the Knicks a low-post presence, allowing Chandler to be the go-to pick-and-roller; and (2) to improve the spacing between Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, who had tended to crowd the court in the midrange area.
STAT will look to improve his moves on the block, which will be crucial to his role with the team. He and Anthony both liked to work in isolation from the elbow, which is the reason that the offense was stagnant with both of them on the floor. If Stoudemire can bang down low, grab rebounds and give the Knicks a consistent 15 to 20 points per night, he’ll solidify himself as an irreplaceable part of the team.
STAT desperately wants to have a bigger role with New York next season, Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported last month:
Amar'e Stoudemire’s agent said the veteran forward is unhappy with the way the season ended for him and the Knicks, but that Stoudemire believes he’ll play a bigger role next year.
“You know Amar’e, he’s going to work as hard as he can during the offseason,” said Stoudemire’s agent. “It was a tough year, but Amar’e is already looking forward to next season. He’ll be ready.”
Will Stoudemire ever live up to that ridiculous $100 million contract? Probably not. But that doesn’t matter now—all he can do is focus on improving his game in ways that will help his team win, and that’s exactly what he’s been doing in the offseason.
In 2014, STAT could be the last piece of the puzzle for a team that was two games away from reaching the Eastern Conference Finals. Next season, though, the goal is a title, and Stoudemire's presence down low could make that possible.