Amar’e Stoudemire was back with the Knicks on New Year’s Day, welcomed by a standing ovation from the Madison Square Garden faithful.
Then he went out and looked like a guy who missed training camp and the first third of the season following knee surgery. There were flashes — a block in the paint, a baseline cut for a dunk off a J.R. Smith pass — but mostly Stoudemire looked rusty, like a guy where the game was just moving really fast for him during the Knicks loss.
Stoudemire finished 3-of-8 shooting and was a -9 on the floor because LaMarcus Aldridge and J.J. Hickson outplayed him (Hickson has outplayed a lot of people this season while you weren’t watching). It wasn’t an impressive performance for STAT, who played just shy of 17 minutes off the bench.
But what did you expect?
It’s going to take a few games for him to get his conditioning back, his feel for the game back, for him to adjust to a new role off the bench. Like the video above shows there were flashes. Give him a chance to see if he can start to do that regularly. And wait for Raymond Felton to get back next month from a broken finger — Stoudemire and Felton had good pick-and-roll chemistry before.
And here’s a stat to watch going forward — lineups with Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Stoudemire on the floor together were +2 in five minutes on the court. That one night and small sample size is meaningless, but that is the combo Mike D’Antoni could not get to work together and Mike Woodson needs to if the Knicks are going to be the real elite threat in the East they played like early on.
Watch Spurs’ Dejounte Murray throw off-the-backboard alley-oop to himself in pickup game
Murray is going to be brought along slowly in a backcourt where Tony Parker and Patty Mills will be splitting time at the point. Murray is more of a combo guard and is going to have to shoot a lot better than he did in college (28.8 percent from three) to get some run. But this is a situation where the Spurs can groom him, bring him along slowly, and see if they have another draft steal.
He’s certainly got the athleticism.
Corey Brewer: “James (Harden) is going to play defense this year”
Well, at least it wasn’t two seasons ago — his near MVP season he was in good enough shape that he could put in a respectable effort on that end and still handle his massive offensive load. There were still some mental lapses, but his focus was better and his improvement lifted the team defense. Last season, he regressed back to youtube “highlight” defense Harden — his conditioning was not where it needed to be, he didn’t expend as much effort on that end, and it showed.
“I think this year he’s going to play better defense, We’re going to let the past be in the past. It’s the future of the Rockets, man. James is going to play defense this year.”
We’re all Missourians on this one: Show me.
Remember that the Rockets will be out and running — Mike D’Antoni is the coach now, and Daryl Morey is going to get the up tempo ball he wants (which Kevin McHale had them doing, but Harden didn’t like him so…). D’Antoni’s teams in Phoenix played better defense than their reputation — points per possession they were middle of the pack — but that has never been his focus.
Will Harden be able to run like he needs to on offense and still defend at a reasonable level?
If he can, it’s a big step toward the Rockets being a dangerous team in the West because if he does it others will follow. Otherwise, every Rockets game will be a shootout, which is entertaining but not going to get a team deep into the playoffs.
Watch Drake hit a half court shot while doing a situp
A few teams could use another point guard. If Chalmers shows his health, he belongs in someone’s rotation. But that might require taking a low-paying deal and working his way up from the third point guard spot – or even just onto the regular-season roster.