When you talk about Amar’e Stoudemire the contract is the first thing that comes up — he is making $21.7 million this season and will pick up his player option for $23.4 million next season. Yes, that is overpaying for his current production, which has been improved this season (11.1 points a game on 55 percent shooting) but is not max contract numbers.
But then you have to remember the context of when Stoudemire signed — the Knicks had nothing. Donnie Walsh had gotten the Knicks out of the hole that Isiah Thomas had dug, but they needed a star to build around. They struck out with LeBron James. Stoudemire was the next biggest free agent that summer and the Knicks landed him. Teams were hesitant to go five years at a max salary for him because of his injury history, but the Knicks needed a home run to help put them on the map and attract other talent. Carmelo Anthony is not a Knick without Stoudemire.
Now, though, Stoudemire’s contract is an anchor on the franchise rebuild efforts. His three knee surgeries during his time in New York have been a blow. This summer the Knicks will shop his expiring deal around, but under the current CBA there isn’t much demand for big expiring deals so a deal may well not happen.
Which is fine with Stoudemire — he loves New York and wants to stay a Knick. Forever.
That is what he told Jared Zwerling in a fantastic first person feature at Bleacher Report (go read the entire thing, right now).
“Now, I’ve had a successful, injury-free year so far and I’m back in the starting lineup. From the hard work that I put in, I knew it was going to manifest into some positive. I feel like I’m back to my dominant self and I’m still improving, still getting better, still getting stronger. Now, we’re on a seven-game winning streak and we’ve got a chance to make the playoffs. We dug ourselves a hole, but we’re fighting out of it somewhat, climbing out of the hole, so I feel positive about that….
“I want to be a Knick for life and win multiple championships here. I don’t want to go anywhere else, especially with (Phil) Jackson coming in. He has an incredible legacy; it’s probably unmatched. With a leader like that, it can only become a positive output with that type of leadership. He’s been around great organizations, from Chicago to L.A., so now joining us with the Knicks, it’s great to see. Regarding the Triangle offense, it’s funny because I’ve been hearing that it would be great for me for the past six years. It could be possible that we implement the Triangle offense, and I just can’t wait to perfect whatever system we’re going to be in. I’m ready to get to work now.”
This is the effect Jackson is having in New York already.
While Knicks fans may not like the idea, keeping Stoudemire after this last contract expires may not be the worst idea for New York… with a couple big caveats.
First, Stoudemire would need to remain healthy the remainder of this season and all of next season. In doing so he has to continue to be productive and valuable on the court.
Second, he has to take a MASSIVE pay cut. Like down to the $6 million range give or take. Close to the league average.
Phil Jackson will set a tone and a direction for the Knicks — they are going to be a triangle team. Stoudemire can fit into that role, his mobility, midrange shot and skills around the rim could be a good triangle fit. But Jackson needs to see if there are better players out there for that role. Then he needs to get Stoudemire in at a fair price because he is not near a max salary guy anymore.
All of which is to say, stranger things have happened. This is not likely, but not impossible either. We just need to see how things play out with Jackson and with Stodemire’s knees over the next couple of seasons.