Amar’e Stoudemire was given a “mental break” this week by Mike D’Antoni. Moving aside the fact that Amar’e seems to miss a lot of practices this year for non-injury reasons, there are some interesting dynamics on the Knicks being reported by the New York Daily News:
“Looks like Amare is in a funk,” said one Eastern Conference GM this past week, after watching Stoudemire play without his normal maniacal intensity in the Knicks wins over Orlando and New Jersey, while Anthony was putting up more than 30 points and getting the shots in crunch time in both games. “But you could expect that when they made the trade for Carmelo.”
Of course you could. For the first 54 games of the season, Stoudemire was having the time of his life in New York, enjoying his role as King of the Knicks and the teams lone star. Finally, he had the big stage he craved and his own team he could never have in Phoenix.
Now he’s got Anthony, who loves being a star and a celebrity, who is easier to get the ball to on the perimeter, and, as you may have noticed, to hold it. For long stretches. Before he shoots.No wonder Stoudemire needed a couple of days this past week to get a break. It’s not easy getting passes inside, or competing against Anthony, another “alpha dog,” to use Mike DAntoni’s term.
“I think it makes a difference, it could be for good or for bad, you’d have to ask him about that, exactly,” DAntoni said. “But we’ll try to make it for the good so he doesn’t have to carry the load down the stretch.”
The weird thing is: Amar’e Stoudemire is way more important to the Knicks’ future than Anthony. Anthony’s an elite player, don’t misunderstand me. But what Anthony does, many players in this league can do. But as far as a power forward that can nail the elbow jumper face-up out of the high-post, drive inside, finish off the pick and roll, tap in putbacks, and work over opponents in the deep post? Those guys are harder to come by than gun-and-gun (the running is optional) wings. Anthony’s a fantastic component to add to the Knicks. But with a complimentary player, even if he’s considered better, in Nash next to him, Stoudemire made multiple Conference Finals, challenged champions, made his mark on the league. Anthony, apart from one magical run in a down year for the conference, mostly just came into the first round, shot a lot of jumpers, and then was quietly asked to leave. If you want to buy into the clichéd “some guys are just winners” model (which I don’t), Stoudemire fits that better than Anthony.
The Knicks were only in a position to gamble on a trade for Melo because of where Stoudemire had taken them. It’s undeniable that Stoudemire still leaves gaping holes on the floor in defense and rebounding. But in terms of elite big men in the league, it’s hard to find a power forward outside of Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki more valuable right now. As well as Carlos Boozer has played, the Bulls would be better with Stoudemire finishing off Rose lobs and taking some of the pressure off as a multiple-post offensive player. As … nice as Chris Bosh has played, the Heat might be the actual fearsome threesome they were supposed to be had they had Stoudemire’s no-nonsense aggression versus Bosh’s wafting wavering. That the Knicks are likely first-round fodder does not speak to Stoudemire, and in fact, speaks to how Anthony, at least in terms of this season’s hopes, was too high a cost to maintain the Knicks’ momentum.
Anthony’s going to continue to get the ball because he’s more of a power player in terms of politics as a member of the CAA group that includes LeBron and Wade. He orchestrated his way out of Denver for half the Knicks’ roster, is a perimeter player, and has shown he and his agent will get their way. But the Knicks need to realize that Stoudemire isn’t a role player. He’s the best overall player they have. That’s what got them into the playoff race to begin with. Melo’s a great player. But giving him the reins could put the Knicks on a bad path.