The Knicks have been undersized and outmanned for most of the season, particularly in the post, so it may come as a surprise that their best option on the blocks lately has been Amar’e Stoudemire.
The six-time All-Star forward stands 6-foot-10, but his game was always more suited to that of a perimeter player, hovering around the elbow ready to shoot the jumper. But since his return to the lineup after missing the first two months of the season due to a knee debridement procedure, Stoudemire has found himself working on the blocks more than usual.
Perhaps it’s because of his summer workouts with Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, or maybe it’s because Stoudemire is needed more than ever in the post because the Knicks are so undermanned in the size department. Center Tyson Chandler is the only other legitimate big man that is currently on the active roster, but his offensive game is limited — despite his maiden All-Star accolades this season.
Stoudemire has taken a unique route to his current role this season, as he’s gone from a former franchise cornerstone to sixth man. But when asked if it’s bittersweet that he’s no longer the go-to guy and has seen his minutes pared down this season, he shrugs and offers a “no, not really,” because in his eyes, “it’s all about winning championships.” He offered that he’s been finishing games, which shows him that he’s still a big piece of this puzzle.
Head coach Mike Woodson agreed and added that he certainly sees a different fire in Stoudemire this season, because at his age, 30, the window for winning that elusive ring is closing.
“I just think he senses a sense of urgency in terms of the makeup of our team that we have to win now,” Woodson said. “It doesn’t matter who starts and who plays all the minutes. I always believe it’s about who finishes the game. He’s accepted his role, [which] tells me that he’s on board, he’s trying to help us win, and it doesn’t matter what the situation is. … He’s going to do whatever it takes to help us win.”
Stoudemire has indeed taken nicely to his new role. And by doing whatever it takes to do so, he’s endeared himself to his teammates even more so than he already had.
Since returning New Year’s Day, Stoudemire’s legs have looked fresher with each passing game, and his performances have gotten better each game, culminating with Wednesday night’s stat line of 14 points on 7-of-7 shooting. He’s averaging 16.5 points per game in his last six contests and 12.7 4.3 .553 percent from the floor in 22.3 minutes of action. If his numbers are prorated over 36 minutes, Stoudemire’s impact trails only Carmelo Anthony’s per-36 minutes averages, as he’d average 20.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
Numbers and stats are nice, said Stoudemire, but ultimately all he wants to talk about is who the Knicks are facing next (the Bucks) and how he’ll continue to jell with Anthony and Chandler when Woodson puts all three on the floor at the same time.
Stoudemire remembers the worries and whispers while he was on the mend that the trio could never play together, so he’s anxious to continue to work his way back into the mix and be a complement to the other stars.
“I don’t really put much thought into it all, [because] I have confidence in coach Woodson to know what it takes for this team to win,” Stoudemire said of naysayers. “These guys [teammates and coaches] study the game twice as much as anybody and they understand what it takes for us to be successful. … Once the coaching staff presented me with the opportunity to better the team in a new way, I was totally open to it. Everyone has expanded their game for the betterment of the team and wanting to win, so I’m no different. We have the same common denominator of wanting to win a championship.”
» Jason Kidd made an appearance at Knicks’ practice on Thursday in hopes of getting some reps in before making his supposed return, Friday night against the Bucks. The 39-year-old point guard missed Wednesday’s win over the lowly Magic, but assured he’s playing at home against the surging Bucks.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.