Amar'e Stoudemire apparently finds the prospect of being paid $23.4 million to play basketball next season amenable. The New York Knicks forward reportedly declined his early-termination option for the 2014-15 season, locking him into the fifth and final season of his contract.
Marc Stein of ESPN broke the news on Sunday:
Stoudemire signed a five-year, $100 million deal with the Knicks as a free agent in the summer of 2010. A perennial All-Star with uninsurable knees at the time his contract was signed, Stoudemire's production has taken a stark nosedive while his propensity for injury issues continue.
The first season of his contract (2010-11) was the only campaign in which Stoudemire missed fewer than 18 games. He's been an injury-riddled source of frustration ever since, unable to produce and push the Carmelo Anthony-led Knicks to the next level while his onerous contract constricted financial flexibility.
Despite Anthony and his $23.3 million salary hitting free agency this summer, the Knicks still enter this summer capped out. They are expected to offer Anthony a five-year maximum contract to stick around, essentially hoping new coach Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson's ominous presence coaxes better performances out of the same core.
New York went 37-45 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2009-10 last season.
“I think next year we got to take more of a mindset of trying to master the game,” Stoudemire told reporters in April. “I mean, again, certain strategies were placed upon us with Coach Woodson. There were times when we didn’t quite buy into it and as a result of that, we lost games.”
Stoudemire managed to stay relatively healthy, averaging 11.9 points and 4.9 rebounds on 55.7 percent shooting in 65 appearances. The Knicks placed heavy restrictions on Stoudemire's minutes and held him out of most back-to-backs to preserve his knees. He hit the 30-minute plateau 15 times all season.
Though a defensive sieve and not nearly as explosive as he was in his prime, Stoudemire remains an effective offensive piece. His per-36-minute numbers (19 points and 7.9 rebounds) were only slightly below his career averages—a reasonable regression for someone a decade-plus into his career.
The Knicks' overall effectiveness with Stoudemire on the floor is another question. New York was outscored by 6.2 points per 100 possessions with Stoudemire playing this season while topping opponents by 1.9 points when he sat, per NBA.com.
Those numbers are noisy in some spots because Stoudemire was sometimes asked to prop up bad, bench-heavy units. But the Knicks' most heavily used lineup of the season, featuring Stoudemire, J.R. Smith and three starters, was a defensive trainwreck. Stoudemire is an awkward stylistic fit with Anthony and Smith, who prefer dribble-heavy isolations over pick-and-rolls—Stoudemire's bread and butter in Phoenix.
It also does not help that Knicks center Tyson Chandler's most effective form of offense comes as a roll man or cutter. The offensive strengths of Chandler and Stoudemire are in some ways redundant, leaving the latter to post up and shoot mid-range jumpers more than ever.
A whopping 31.8 percent of Stoudemire's possessions were used from the post last season, per Synergy Sports. That was significantly higher than any other season in his career. It will be interesting to see how Fisher chooses to utilize Stoudemire.
If he utilizes him at all.
Stoudemire's contract locks him into the big payday next season, but it doesn't guarantee he'll be a Knick. His expiring deal could be dangled by Jackson as an attractive trade piece for teams looking to get out of longer-term contracts. Players like Josh Smith and Eric Gordon are attached to long-term deals their current franchise would probably be amenable to sending elsewhere.
If Jackson feels the pressure to win now to placate Anthony, he'll be making calls to the Pelicans, Pistons and other teams dangling Stoudemire's expiring deal.
It would probably be difficult to move Stoudemire without attaching something else of value. But it should be noted that Stoudemire only opted into being paid next season. Whether it'll be as a Knick or not is largely up to the market.
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