There was a day when Amar’e Stoudemire was one of the most feared players, one of the toughest covers in the NBA. He was athletic, versatile, inside-out four long before that became trendy. He was a guy worthy of a max deal, he was a cornerstone player — if he could stay healthy.
The last four seasons the injuries have won out. Stoudemire has missed more than a third of the possible games he could participate in, and he hasn’t been the same explosive player when he did suit up (although he has remained efficient).
Stoudemire signed with the Miami Heat for this season and told the Associated Press he thinks he can bring back some of that vintage form.
“Just four years ago I was an MVP candidate and an All-Star,” Stoudemire said. “I feel like I can still get back to that All-Star level of play. If I can achieve that, then that’s going to help the team in its entirety. … I will accept whatever the role is.”
Whatever that role is, he’s trying to be realistic about what might happen. In case he needed to be humbled, fans are still confusing him with Chris Bosh.
“Stay tuned,” Stoudemire said. “At this point, I don’t know what I’m going to bring. My goal is to become a better player than I was last year, expand on what I did last year. I have a lot of skill set left in this body and I want to show that.”
Miami has a ton of potential up front — if everyone can stay healthy. Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside will start. Behind them is Josh McRoberts, Chris Andersen, Stoudemire and Udonis Haslem — all veterans who know how to play the game. It gives Erik Spoelstra interesting options, but he needs guys who can stay on the court this season.
If they do, and if the rotations come together, this could be the second best team in the East during the regular season.
Golden State won its NBA title this year going small — Draymond Green at the five was not something the Cavaliers had an answer for. The two years prior, the Miami Heat won a couple of titles playing Chris Bosh at the five, spacing the floor with his jumpers.
Small ball works. Not for everyone — Green allows the Warriors to go small and not get hurt defensively — but it has proven to work with the right lineups.
Just don’t tell Miami center Hassan Whiteside that.
The Warriors Draymond Green saw that tweet and fired back.
Then they exchanged a couple more barbs.
Whiteside may want to note that the Warriors beat the Memphis Grizzlies to get to the Finals, and last I checked Marc Gasol was pretty good at scoring inside. Same with Zach Randolph. Didn’t do them any good. To be fair, part of it is the Warriors are versatile — they can go small, play bigger, and they remain very effective on both ends of the floor. But their core identity is smaller and faster.
For two years prior, even Whiteside’s own team leaned small to win — Chris Bosh as the five and LeBron James at the four for long stretches. It’s what created matchup problems for opponents. It’s what worked.
There will always be a place for a skilled big man in the game, but the old basketball adage “tall and good beats small and good” doesn’t always ring true anymore. Not if you have the right smalls.
Amar’e Stoudemire signed with the Heat this offseason, and he’ll likely back up Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside.
Stoudemire is getting plenty of experience playing second fiddle.
Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel:
Among the more entertaining questions he received from Monday’s students at Dillard Elementary? “Are you Chris Bosh?”
“That’s all the kids were saying,” he said. “They’re so used to those guys. I mean Bosh has been here for years and won championships. So these kids, when they see someone 6-10, they think of Chris Bosh.”
Don’t be discouraged, Amar’e. If you keep working hard and keep practicing, maybe some day you’ll become a famous basketball player known to fifth-graders all across the greater Miami area.