They knew about the knees. We all knew. You just hoped it wouldn't happen so soon.
With two years left on his deal, Amar'e Stoudemire has already been forced to miss 73 games over the past two seasons. And now a third surgery since October puts the start to his fourth season as a Knick in question.
After sitting out the first two months of last year, Stoudemire returned for 29 games before having to shut it down once again.
But what's really bad news for Stoudemire and his fans is the success the Knicks have had when he's not on the floor. Call it a coincidence or a correlation, but the fact is the Knicks haven't missed him.
|Knicks 2012-13||Wins||Loss||Winning Percentage|
|Without Stoudemire in the lineup||37||15||.711|
|With Stoudemire in the lineup||16||13||.551|
And given the tiny window they have, coach Mike Woodson won't be playing around.
During last year's second-round series with the Pacers, Woodson only gave Stoudemire nine minutes in Game 3, 11 in Game 4, seven in Game 5 and six in Game 6.
And STAT wouldn't have been dressed to go if he wasn't ready to. Woodson clearly felt he had better options and lineup configurations—especially with Carmelo Anthony excelling as a 4.
And now, with the addition of Andrea Bargnani and Metta World Peace, along with the return of Kenyon Martin, the need for another power forward diminishes.
Besides, STAT only lasted 29 games averaging 23.5 minutes as a reserve. It just doesn't appear his knees are capable of taking the beating from a six-month season.
In situational stretches, the Knicks could use Stoudemire's offensive firepower. He did manage to average 14 points a game last year. But there's just no hiding his defensive flaws. Despite his scoring production, teams continued to expose him as a defensive liability.
He's become a target for opposing offenses to attack, whether they bring him out to the perimeter:
Or they take it at him in the paint:
Though he can still be an effective offensive player, his points-per-game average is a poor indicator of the impact he's made. Don't be the guy to justify Stoudemire's performance by simply quoting his box score, which tells you how many points a player scored or rebounds he grabbed—not how many he gave up.
This is an extremely significant year for the Knicks moving forward, given Carmelo Anthony's option to test free agency and the overall age of the team. There's just no more time left to experiment.
If Stoudemire can go, best-case scenario is he's used for depth and offense off the bench. His days of starting alongside Anthony are over. And chances are you won't see STAT playing too many crunch-time possessions.
The Knicks need to develop some continuity with their new pieces, and having Stoudemire in and out of the lineup every other day could hurt the rotational rhythm.
He's going to have to prove he can battle for 20 minutes a night. If this turns into one of those injuries that lists him day-to-day through an 82-game season—forget about it. Woodson will end up using him like he did against Indiana in the playoffs—sparingly.
At this point, Stoudemire's role on the team is to provide leadership, toughness and depth. We'll take the offense in spurts, but a minutes limit will ultimately preserve his legs, as well as the team's defensive credibility.
Whether he's healthy enough to play or not, Stoudemire has officially entered the downward slope of his career. And there isn't a rope to pull him back up.
Despite his strong offensive play in 2012-13, temper your expectations from here on out.