How Amar'e Stoudemire Can Still Help the NY Knicks This Season

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How Amar'e Stoudemire Can Still Help the NY Knicks This Season
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

When the New York Knicks signed Amar’e Stoudemire to a $100 million contract three years ago, the star power forward made a strong declaration.

“The Knicks are back,” he proclaimed.

Stoudemire’s words carried from a crowded media room to thousands of NYK fans in the Big Apple, and around the country, who were desperate for their team to become relevant again.

Now, the Knicks are back—they reached the second round of the playoffs in 2013 and are looking to be legitimate contenders in 2014—Stoudemire was right.

The only problem is that he hasn’t had a whole lot to do with it.

While Stoudemire was having the best season of his life in his first year in NY, the Knicks unloaded a good portion of their roster to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Carmelo Anthony.

Anthony and Stoudemire struggled over who was the guy on the team for years, but eventually Anthony—the better, healthier and bigger star of the two—was handed the reins. In addition to his drop in offensive production (25.3 in 2011, 17.5 in 2012 and 14.3 in 2013), STAT has been perennially hobbled by injuries.

He’ll never live up to that ridiculous contract that New York signed him to, but Stoudemire is still a vital piece in the Knicks’ pursuit of a title. In 2014, there will be several ways that he can help New York win a championship for the first time in over 40 years.

 

Accept His Role

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For being the highest-paid player on the Knicks, Stoudemire has handled himself extremely well during his time in New York. Acknowledging and accepting that fact that you aren’t the go-to guy, even though you’re paid like it, isn’t an easy thing to do.

Last season, he came off the bench and didn’t complain about it one bit. He must take the same approach in 2014—the Knicks can’t afford a diva situation.

Since he took over as head coach two seasons ago, Mike Woodson has done a great job of getting his guys to buy into what he wants to do. The best example is J.R. Smith, who came into training camp last season desperately wanting to be a starter. Woodson stressed to Smith that it was best for the team if he came off the bench, and the hot-and-cold shooting guard ended up winning the Sixth Man of the Year award.

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Woodson has been unclear as to whether or not STAT will find himself in the starting lineup. But he did play well off the bench in 2013, and for that reason it’s more likely that Stoudemire will be a sixth or seventh man.

Regardless of how many minutes he’s given and when those minutes come, Stoudemire must embrace his role on the team.

 

Interior Scoring

STAT played in just 29 games last season, as knee troubles kept him out for long stretches in the beginning and end of the year. But when he was healthy, the six-time All-Star brought interior scoring off the bench—14.3 points and five boards per game—which is something New York will really need next season.

Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani aren’t going to score on anyone in the post. Chandler will finish off of alley-oops and put-backs and Barganani is primarily a jump-shooter and slasher. Outside of Anthony, Stoudemire is the only one who can beat a defender one-on-one below the free throw line.

Stoudemire isn’t Hakeem Olajuwon, but he has worked with “The Dream” for the past two summers to improve his moves on the block, according to Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York.

The Knicks, a team that will rely heavily on three-point shooting, need to have a presence down low—and that’s exactly what a healthy STAT will provide.

When Stoudemire is in the game, the Knicks can work the block with someone other than Melo, which will allow the reigning scoring champion to spot up on the perimeter.

 

Stay Healthy

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Although maintaining good health throughout an entire season is out of his control, Stoudemire would really be helping the Knicks if he did so.

Anthony and Stoudemire have never had a full season to mesh together. First, Melo joined the team midway through the year. Then there was the lockout season. And last year, Stoudemire hurt his knee in the preseason.

The idea that these two simply can’t play together is ridiculous—they’ve just never had a chance to really gel.

If two players don’t really like each other off the court, it’s nearly impossible to play win as a duo on the court—take Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant, for example.

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However, STAT and Melo genuinely like one another and have said on numerous occasions that they will make it work (as reported by Yahoo! Sports).

Having a full training camp, preseason and regular season to mesh will work wonders for the Knicks’ highest paid players. But that will only be possible if both Stoudemire and Anthony remain healthy.

Stoudemire doesn’t exactly have a good history with injuries—he missed 53 games last season—but perhaps a reduced role will result in better health.

If he can embrace the plan that Woodson has for him, become a reliable low-post presence and remain healthy as he develops chemistry with Anthony, Stoudemire will be a tremendous asset for the Knicks in 2014.

Although he won't be the captain of the ship, STAT will be a huge part of the Knicks' potential voyage back to the Finals for the first since 1999.

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