No Surprise

Carmelo Anthony

The Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony experiment was destined to fail from day one.

Alas, the experiment is still failing.

That isn’t a knock on Carmelo Anthony or Amare Stoudemire. It’s a knock on the idiot who decided that putting those two players together with Mike D’Antoni would somehow work itself out. The New York Knicks are winning but their max contract problems haven’t gone away.

It shouldn’t be a revelation to anyone that the Knicks are winning games. They’re 20-8 on the season following their tough loss on Christmas day to the re-energized Lakers. That’s 20 wins without Amare Stoudemire and 8 losses without Amare Stoudemire.

No one has ever questioned Carmelo’s Anthony ability as a player. For much of his career, he has arguably been the best pure scorer in the association.

It was never meant to be with Mike D’Antoni trying to lead two incompatible star players. On the flip side, Mike Woodson isn’t the primary reason for the Knicks unexpected success through the first quarter of the season.

Sure, the Knicks experienced a rebirth due to the culture change provided by Woodson’s insertion as head coach near the end of last season. However, it is the injury to Amare Stoudemire that has been the jump start that the Knicks really needed. It’s not news to anyone that his absence has made the Knicks a better team.

A better team than they could ever possibly be with him on the floor.

Carmelo Anthony is no stranger to carrying teams on his back. He did it throughout his tenure in the Mile High City. By himself, ‘Melo led his teams to the playoffs in the much more competitive Western Conference.

Without Amare, why did we think it would be any different in New York?

Outside of the Miami Heat, the Eastern Conference is weaker than the 4 nerds on the Big Bang Theory. The only reason Carmelo couldn’t figure it out in New York was because he was forced to play with another star that he had no business playing with. Surrounded by a cast of players that complement rather than limit him, ‘Melo has reverted back to his ridiculously efficient scoring ways.

Going small and playing Anthony at the 4 has helped. ‘Melo’s maturation as a player and a person should be commended. It has allowed Mike Woodson to throw out these small lineups that continue to shoot the lights. However, Amare’s absence is still the biggest reason for the Knicks success through 28 games.

As a lone wolf, Carmelo Anthony was always going to succeed anywhere he played in the NBA. He may not be the leader or winner that Michael Jordan was but he can make any team a winning team all by his lonesome.

I wrote during the Knicks-Heat playoff series that Amare Stoudemire’s injury from his cartoon-like punch was possibly a blessing in disguise for the Knicks in the short-term. They were clearly better apart than together back then and it is no different now. In the long-term, the issue will remain that Amare has a max contract that is virtually untradeable.

The difference between then and now is that it is no longer a given that the two stars will have to make things work.

No one could have foreseen that the Knicks would be 20-8 but after Amare was ruled to be out for at least 6 weeks, those pre-season expectations should have been raised instead of being lessened. ‘Melo was always better without Stoudemire but everyone just assumed that Carmelo and his cast of geezers would be worse without Amare.

It turns out that isn’t the case.

The Knicks will carry on being a successful team as long as Carmelo Anthony is the lead dog. Maybe not 20-8 good or championship successful or 20-8 good, but they will be good.

That should never have been a shocker with ‘Melo running the ship.

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Agree? Disagree? You can also e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

A Blessing in Disguise?

It didn’t seem possible that things could get worse for the Knicks after their game 2 loss to the Miami Heat. Then Amare Stoudemire went all Metta World Peace on the glass casing of a fire extinguisher. STAT is reportedly “almost certain” to be out for game 3 at Madison Square Garden. Amazingly, things have gotten worse for the Knicks.

Or have they?

On paper, the Knicks missing their $100 million power forward is bad. On paper, inserting Jarred Jeffries into the starting lineup or sliding Carmelo Anthony up to play the 4 is not ideal. On paper, Amare Stoudemire’s injury would signal the end for the New York Knicks’ already slim to none odds of winning the series.

In reality though, Amare Stoudemire’s injury could be just the freak incident to jump-start the Knicks.

Amare hasn’t meshed with Carmelo since day 1 of Anthony’s overhyped arrival to his hometown. Prior to Carmelo Anthony joining the Knicks, Stoudemire was surprisingly playing up to the absurdly rich contract that the Knicks desperately signed him to in the 2010 off-season. It has become clear that Stoudemire fits as well with the current version of the Knicks as Lindsay Lohan did at this weekend’s White House Correspondence dinner. Amare was better off without Carmelo.

It could be the case that the Knicks are better off without Amare.

The Knicks don’t have the personnel to beat the Heat but with Amare Stoudemire out the team might be able to put up a better fight. The front court lineup featuring Tyson Chandler, Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony doesn’t space the floor well enough for either Amare or Carmelo to go to work the way they would like to. When you add to the mix an average shooter in Landry Fields and a below average 3 point shooter throughout his career in Baron Davis, what you get is not a group built for success.

The Knicks, however, were very successful at times during the absence of Amare Stoudemire, especially so when Carmelo would do his best Lebron James impersonation and beast it at power forward. Going small should not hurt the Knicks against the Heat’s unassuming group of big men, while the constant shooting presence of a J.R. Smith or Steve Novak may help turn the series around.

Statistics do not tell all but the stats without STAT on the floor this season should ease the minds of Knicks fans looking ahead to game 3 (not too much though). Sadly, New York has been better on both sides of the ball this season without Amare. Per NBA.com, they have scored 104.6 points per 100 possessions and allowed 96.2 points per 100 possessions in his absence. This is opposed to only their 98.1 point per 100 possessions scoring clip and 100.8 points per 100 possessions allowed defensively with Amare Stoudemire on the court.

The outrageous story featuring the stupidity of Amare Stoudemire is probably a bigger deal than his actual injury. After 2 games it appeared unlikely that the Knicks were going to end their pathetic 12 game playoff losing streak even with Stoudemire in the lineup. They played better in game 2 but it wasn’t close to enough. With Carmelo, Amare is a difference maker, but not the difference maker that he is paid to be.

For the New York Knickerbockers to truly contend for a title one day, Amare Stoudemire has to have a starring role. He can’t be what Chris Bosh is far too often for the Miami Heat. Whoever the future coach in New York is will have to find a way to make the situation work.

But maybe, just maybe, the Knicks are better off in the short-term without Amare Stoudemire.

You can follow me on Twitter @paintstheblack and subscribe to Painting the Black to get the latest posts.

Agree? Disagree? You can also E-mail Chris at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

Amare Stoudemire the answer?

Amare Stoudemire is a big question mark heading into the NBA's Free Agent Frenzy.

The first day of the NBA free agent frenzy did not possess the excitement that everyone had hoped it would. Even though a big signing did take place, with restricted free agent Rudy Gay re-signing with Memphis, none of the top guns made any noise on Thursday.

However, on day two Amare Stoudemire is reportedly close to signing a 5 year $100 million contract with the New York Knicks according to Yahoo Sports.

Not flying under the radar but at the same time not in the spotlight, Amare Stoudemire, just recently turned down a 5 year $96 million offer from the Phoenix Suns. In this star-studded free agent class of 2010, Stoudemire has been looking to land a max deal on a championship team. Amare Stoudemire is arguably the best power forward in the league when he is at his best, but in spite of this, I think it would be a big mistake for the New York Knicks if they do end up signing Amare to this big contract.

As the 9th pick in the 2002 draft, Amare Stoudemire has thrived under the Phoenix Suns’ run and gun offensive system. Throughout the years he has expanded his game greatly, most notably developing a now consistent 15 to 17 foot mid-range jump shot. As more of a face up big man, Amare is a great pick and roll player who has meshed beautifully with 2 time MVP point guard Steve Nash.

However, around the NBA, Amare is not just known for his dominance on the court. His mental and physical toughness as well as his intensity are constant question marks in his game, which make him one of the biggest dilemma’s in this year’s free agent class.

There are many good reasons to why teams should not shy away from Amare Stoudemire this off-season. Nevertheless, if your team is going for more than a quality regular season than Amare is not the player meant for you.

Defence. Despite being one of the game’s most dominant big men on the offensive end, Amare is one of the game’s worst big men on the defensive end. It is constantly mentioned that Amare has the ability to play good defence and it is just a matter of him putting his mind to it. Easier said than done.

Part of this problem probably stems from the fact that he played and developed under the Mike D’Antoni seven seconds or less system that allowed him to take plays off on the defensive end. On the other hand, as a top-flight NBA player, it should be Amare’s personal responsibility to take some initiative to make himself into the best possible basketball player that he can be. Even under new coach Alvin Gentry, who tried to instil a better defensive mindset for the Suns , Amare was still having games during the season and the playoffs where he was non-existent on the defensive end.

Potentially Amare could be an intimidating force in the paint, but currently he does not provide the intimidating presence that is a necessity for any championship team. Therefore, it will be a requirement for the the team that does end up signing Amare to either find a defensive stopper to fill the void left by Amare’s defensive incapabilities or to have one already in place.

Dwight Howard led the league in rebounding last season

Rebounding. The defence topic leads into this next reason why I would not take on Amare if I am trying to build a championship calibre team. Even though Amare Stoudemire has never averaged less than 8 rebounds in a season (except for 2005-06 where he only played 3 games), there has always been issues regarding his rebounding consistency. Just like his defence, Amare takes games off on the boards.

For example, in the first two games of the NBA playoff semi-finals versus the Los Angeles Lakers this year, Stoudemire had a combined 9 rebounds in two Suns losses. But in game 3 Amare exploded for 42 points and 11 rebounds in the Suns 118-109 victory. Also, in the that same series Amare had only 4 rebounds in each of the final two games.

There is no reason for a guy with Amare Stoudemire’s physical abilities to not be getting 8 or 9 plus rebounds night in and night out. I’m not sure if it’s that he is unable to bring it every night or that he just flat out doesn’t want to but either way it is a big concern from a front office standpoint.

Intensity. Amare Stoudemire’s game revolves around his ability to stay intense each and every game, which he has proven he is unable to do. Usually, Amare will get at least his 20 points on the offensive end, but as talked about above he does not bring the same focus each game. If you look at the stat sheet every game it would not be obvious that Amare is taking games off on the offensive end. However, if you watch him on a regular basis you will see that there are games where he is not getting to the free throw line and is regularly settling for jump shots.

Again, Amare is too physically gifted to be settling for jump shots during games. It would be impossible to ask of anyone to be 100% intense over an entire 82 game season, but you see a lack of intensity all too often with Amare Stoudemire.

You don’t see Kobe Bryant taking plays off very often let alone entire games off. Amare’s mentality does not scream championship player.

Steve Nash has averaged 10.9 assists in 6 seasons with the Suns

Steve Nash. Maybe the most talked about aspect of Stoudemire’s game is the possibility that he would not be close to the same player that he is considered to be without the distribution from Steve Nash. After a sort of resurgence last season, Steve Nash is still widely considered to be the best point guard in the league. He makes everyone around him a better player as he is always giving open looks and easy buckets to his teammates. Virtual nobody’s such as Raja Bell, Boris Diaw, and Channing Frye have all been given big contracts because of Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns’ style of play.

The question that teams have to answer when considering Amare Stoudemire is whether or not he can produce in a similar manner that he did while playing with Steve Nash.

Nash and Stoudemire had a seemingly telepathic connection sometimes. The way they worked the pick and roll to perfection and the deception of the dribble hand-off made the dynamic duo practically unstoppable at times. Amare Stoudemire has not had a season in which he has averaged less than 20 points in the time that Steve Nash has been around. Granted, Amare has only played 2 seasons without the assistance of Steve Nash.

Despite averaging 20.6 points and 9.0 rebounds in his sophomore season before Steve Nash arrived in Phoenix, I think that Amare’s game relies too much on Steve Nash getting him the ball. Moreover, the 3-point shooting that the Suns have possessed over the years spreads the floor for Amare and makes it so help defence is not as apparent as guys are in fear of deadly 3-point shooting.

There is no doubt that Amare Stoudemire is an absolute beast. However, his constant lack of defence, rebounding and intensity, combined with Steve Nash’s play at the point makes Amare a player who will not take the New York Knicks or any other team for that matter to the promimsed land. Obviously, it was inevitable that Amare would be signed to a big contract at some point, but the Knicks will be shaking their heads at their mistake in the years to come.

Amare Stoudemire is going to produce a lot of good things for the team that he signs with, but one thing that he is not going to produce is an NBA championship.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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