Amar'e Stoudemire Injury Highlights Massive Health Questions for NY Knicks

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterSeptember 30, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 11: Amar'e Stoudemire #1 of the New York Knicks celebrates in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Indiana Pacers during the 2013 NBA Playoffs on May 11, 2013 at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE  (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Add another tally to the New York Knicks' knee-surgery count. 

Amar'e Stoudemire went under the knife yet again, this time for what was considered "a cleanup," according to Frank Isola and the New York Daily News

A cleanup—as if it's a routine job you complete in your garage. This "cleanup" comes after two previous surgeries in 2012-13, one on each knee, that caused him to miss 53 games last season. 

The news, which was confirmed by coach Mike Woodson, marks Stoudemire's third knee surgery since last October.

Mike Woodson confirms Amar'e Stoudemire did have minor procedure this offseason.

— Nate Taylor (@ByNateTaylor) September 30, 2013

We're at the point where it's a win for STAT if he's healthy enough to play. Productive minutes off the bench? I'll take em'. 

This is a pretty crappy best-case scenario for a guy eating up over $20 million a year. 

However, we knew all along STAT's knees had the durability of a hard-shell taco. The Phoenix Suns knew it in 2010, when they allowed him to walk in free agency. 

But what's troubling about Stoudemire's health is the effect it could have on his individual teammates. Few players on this roster are built to consistently play starter minutes. 

The Knicks' dominoes might not be strong enough to hold if one or two start to fall. Given the age and delicate health of New York's supporting cast, it will need all hands on deck to compete long term with the best in the East.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 14:  J.R. Smith #8 and Amare Stoudemire #1 of the New York Knicks protest a foul called during the game against the Indiana Pacers during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldh
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

 

Fear the Injury Domino Effect

Stoudemire's replacement as No. 2 in the offense is coming off a major knee surgery of his own. Last year, the Knicks were able to survive Stoudemire's absence, and ultimately flourish, thanks to J.R. Smith's emergence  as a dangerous second option. 

Smith recently had surgery for his patella tendon and a tear in his lateral meniscus, which came with a three- to four-month recovery timetable. And whether he's healthy to start the year or not, it remains a significant injury to an awfully important leg.

With free-agent money limited over the summer, now former general manager Glen Grunwald had to pull a rabbit out a hat in order to add talent. Andrea Bargnani might be more of a ferret than your prized white bunny, but he was still an impressive get for the Knicks considering the circumstances. 

Given Stoudemire's health concerns and Smith's unreliability, along with Kenyon Martin's age up front, Bargnani actually gives the Knicks a much-needed additional weapon.

However, he wouldn't be a Knick acquisition without some physical red flags. Bargnani has only played 132 games over the past three seasons, struggling through elbow, calf and ankle injuries. 

With the health of various rotation players resting on thin ice, the Knicks have to worry about an injury domino effect. If Stoudemire is unable to go, that puts more pressure on Bargnani. More minutes for Bargnani means higher risk of injury. The more injuries to supporting cast members, the more weight Carmelo Anthony has to shoulder. And the load he's already carrying is heavy enough as it is. 

When you turn up everyone's health meter to 100 percent, this is actually a serious lineup with talent, experience and depth. It ultimately may not be the Heat, Bulls, Pacers or Nets who eventually swallow up the Knicks. It's the physical challenge this team has to be most worried about combating. 

 

Physical Challenge 

This is going to be one of those cross-your-fingers type of seasons for New York. The team is old, fragile and all sorts of beaten up. If only the Knicks would be allowed to wear helmets and knee pads, maybe they'd be playing on an equal field.

For the Knicks to maximize their potential, they're going to need a lot to go right. And most of it will be out of their control. 

Stoudemire's latest surgery may not be a back-breaker for New York. It might not mean anything. But it highlights the frailty of this group and the small margin for error they're working with. 

Between Stoudemire, Smith, Anthony, Iman Shumpert and Metta World Peace, that's five core players who've recently undergone procedures to their knees. 

This is a good-looking roster on paper. If these guys can get out and go without any restrictions, the Knicks could compete for a strong playoff seed. 

But all you can do is cross your fingers.