How's that humble pie tasting, Mr. Stoudemire?
Fresh off saying that the Lakers' Lamar Odom got "lucky" by scoring 19 points, and gathering 19 rebounds in Game One of the Western Conference Finals, Amar'e put up his second straight no-show defensively, while Odom put up his second straight double-double (17 points and 11 rebounds in Game Two).
"I'm not giving him no hype right now; he had a lucky game in Game One," Stoudemire said on Tuesday. "We just got to make sure we box him out. I think I focused so much on [Pau] Gasol and [Andrew] Bynum to where he snuck in there and got 19 boards, so now we just got to make sure there's three guys out there that can rebound well [when] adding Odom. So, we got to do a better job on them."
Err...judging by the fourth quarter carnage of Game two, I guess that didn't work so well.
Stoudemire's never going to be mistaken for Dikembe Mutombo on the defensive end. Still, in the same Game One that Odom went 19-19, Amar'e scored 22 points...but only grabbed three rebounds.
In fact, Stoudemire has as many double-digit rebound nights as three-rebound nights in the playoffs (two).
Is he really in the position to talk about someone else being "lucky" to get boards?
I'm not here to question Stoudemire's impact on a team. He's an unquestionably gifted player on the offensive end, with a skill set that makes him the perfect complement to Steve Nash in the pick-and-roll.
He also defends like a fish out of water.
In the fourth quarter of Game Two, Pau Gasol scored 14 of his game-high 29 points, and Odom chipped in eight. Stoudemire was on the court for all but one minute and 16 seconds in the fourth quarter; he only managed five points and one rebound while getting slaughtered defensively.
"I was being effective and just finishing plays," Gasol said. "We just continued to go to it because it was working pretty well for us."
In Game Two, the Suns gathered 34 total team rebounds. The trio of Odom, Gasol, and Andrew Bynum grabbed 27. (Odom had 11, Gasol had nine, and Bynum added seven.) Bynum also out-rebounded Stoudemire for the game (Bynum with seven, Stoudemire with six), despite Amar’e playing 23 more minutes than Bynum.
In fact, to put Stoudemire’s comments in even more perspective...Odom’s combined 30 rebounds in Games One and Two dwarf Amar’e’s contributions from his past four games (Stoudemire only has 22 rebounds in that time).
Is it lucky that Stoudemire has been out-rebounded three-fold by a bench player this series?
To be fair, Stoudemire did change his tone before Game Two regarding Odom.
"He had a solid game," Stoudemire said. "I'm looking forward to keeping him off the boards and containing him as much as possible. He had a great game so we have to focus in on him a little bit more."
Still, Stoudemire remained unapologetic: "Nah, I'm gonna always be myself. That's just my character. It's just what I was feeling."
Here’s what I’m feeling.
Stoudemire’s “lucky” comment would be akin to me telling my pre-med girlfriend that I know more about biochemistry than she does. (The only science class I took in college was called “The Way Things Work”...and no, I’m not kidding.)
When you’re 6’10”, you’ve got an obligation to your team to average more than 6.6 rebounds per game in the playoffs. (He's been the 28th best rebounder in the playoffs, statistically speaking...right between Erick Dampier of the Mavericks and Serge Ibaka of the Thunder.)
That goes double if you’re trying to convince a team that you’re worth a max contract this summer.
ESPN’s Chris Broussard and Ric Bucher debated whether Stoudemire was worth max money on Wednesday; while most of the conversation focused on Stoudemire possibly needing another microfracture surgery, Buch wasn’t shy about bashing Stoudemire for “being less of a defender/rebounder than ever” as a reason to stay away from offering him the max.
The scary part is that Stoudemire knows he needs more focus defensively.
"I definitely focused on that end," he said. "That was my key, to get better defensively, and it's showed so far this season. It got us to this point; now we've got to ramp it up to get over the hump."
Yet, as ESPNLosAngeles’ Ramona Shelburne points out, “...it has been hard to watch more than a few Lakers offensive possessions in a row without noticing how much Stoudemire is hurting the Suns on defense. He's late on virtually every rotation, he rarely does more than lift his arms straight up to contest a shot, and boxing out to pursue a rebound seems to be an afterthought.”
Again, this is the same guy throwing barbs at someone else?
Time to take a step back and look in the mirror, Mr. Stoudemire.
The Suns aren't out of the series yet, despite being down 2-0. Unlike the Magic, who gave up all semblance of home court advantage, the Suns have a chance to return home, and do to the Lakers what the Thunder did in the first round.
But until Stoudemire can average a respectable amount of rebounds for a 6’10” PF who’s one of the most explosively athletic big men in the game, he should shut his mouth.
Otherwise, he may motivate the Lakers to score 80 points in the paint in Game Three. And as the Lakers have learned, there will be no defensive presence from Stoudemire to contest.