STAT looked as good as he's looked in a year Wednesday night in an 83-78 win over the Chicago Bulls. And what's scary, and ultimately troubling for the Knicks, is that they needed him to look good to beat a team missing three starters.
Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post even went as far as to say that Stoudemire "rescued" the team and "spared his coach."
With roughly seven minutes remaining and the Knicks up eight, coach Mike Woodson pulled Stoudemire for Andrea Bargnani. I thought that was it—Woodson whipping out the old lasso and yanking him for the remainder of game.
But Woodson actually went against the textbook for what seemed like the first time all season. He put Stoudemire back in with over four minutes left during a time when the Knicks desperately needed a bucket. And when Pablo Prigioni called his number with just over two minutes remaining, STAT delivered one of the bigger ones he's hit in a long, long time.
STAT finished the game with 14 points (7-of-11 shooting) and nine boards.
It's also important to note that this game was the second of a back-to-back for the Knicks, which marks Stoudemire's first time playing in one all season.
He appears to have finally found a rhythm out there. And Woodson needs to recognize and let it build. Putting Stoudemire on a minute count could ultimately jeopardize this rhythm and confidence, something that's taken him a while to establish.
It's not like the Knicks have anything to lose here. They essentially play four-on-five offensively with Kenyon Martin on the floor, and the market has been more predictable than Andrea Bargnani and J.R. Smith. And Stoudemire isn't exactly Anthony Davis or Bradley Beal here—youngsters with full careers ahead that aren't worth risking.
Who knows how close to full strength Stoudemire will ever get to from here on out. Both the Knicks and STAT might as well take the chance now while he's up and running strong.
If he's physically capable of playing, then let the $20-plus-million-a-year man play. Stoudemire isn't the ideal answer to the Knicks' problems, but we're not dealing with ideal circumstances. They've got no cap room, few tradable draft picks, fewer tradable players and a roster that just doesn't have many credible threats.
It doesn't mean the Knicks should let the offense run through Stoudemire, or feature him in the post instead of Carmelo Anthony. Woodson needs to find a way to tap into his current strengths and milk them for all they're worth. And as a cog in the system, those strengths—energy, interior activity, mid-range shooting—actually have some value.
"The last couple of nights Amar'e's been stepping up big time, giving us another option we can go to offensively," Carmelo Anthony told Barbara Barker of Newsday.
Melo hit it right on the head there. With erratic scorers like Smith and Bargnani as two of the team's top three options, the Knicks need as many weapons as they can stash in the arsenal. Chances are one of those two guys is going to be off—and the Knicks haven't exactly gotten much production from anyone else on the team outside of Anthony.
Cue STAT, who's finally got his mojo back at a time when the Knicks desperately needed a jolt. Right now, he's experiencing a heat wave this team needs to ride. Hopefully, Woodson doesn't let him cool off, and hopefully, Stoudemire can withstand the physical test.
Given how the season has gone and how quickly this roster's window is closing, increasing Stoudemire's role is an obvious risk worth taking.
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