Amare Stoudemire has returned to the New York Knicks rotation after missing two months due to knee debridement surgery. Head Coach Mike Woodson has bought a bit of time to make his decision as to what Stoudemire’s role will be on the team, due to his inability to contribute major minutes at this juncture. In his first action this season, in a 105-100 loss to the Portland Trailblazers, Stoudemire scored six points in 17 minutes of play, looking understandably rusty at times on the floor. Carmelo Anthony also returned to action after missing two straight contests, pouring in 45 points to continue his incredible scoring hot streak. Without Raymond Felton for the next two months, Anthony and Stoudemire will have a unique opportunity to prove to the basketball world that they can play together. This will be the third season they will have that opportunity.
Anthony has bought into Woodson’s defensive, methodical style of play. Many believe the key to the Knicks’ success will be Stoudemire’s role in the rotation. I would argue that whether he starts or comes off the bench is inconsequential. If he is to truly flourish as an all-around player, as Melo has this season, he must buy in to the system. This also means sacrifice, both of his body on the defensive side of the ball, and his stat line on the offensive side. Although Anthony will have to sacrifice as well, Stoudemire’s mindset will be the linchpin for whether or not this team succeeds.
Mike Woodson is one of the best coachers of defense the NBA has to offer. Just yesterday, Stoudemire told the media that he “has never been taught defense” in the majority of his career under Mike D’Antoni. However outrageous that may sound, what better situation could he find himself in to improve as a player? I do believe that it will be better for this team in Stoudemire comes off the bench, but that doesn’t mean that he and Anthony will not play alongside one another for the majority of the games they play. If their two distinct styles can mesh (which they have at times) consistently, this is a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference, as well as the entire NBA. However, if they cannot, and this team experiences another early round playoff exit, this will be the end of Amare Stoudemire’s career in a Knicks uniform. Despite his likeability, the team is built around Carmelo Anthony and his incredible and wide-ranging shooting talent. This makes Stoudemire the odd-man out and a piece of trade bait that the Knicks can dangle, perhaps for a first round draft selection.