The Knicks lost 93-85 at home to the Heat Sunday afternoon, and are now preparing for Amar’e Stoudemire’s return to the rotation later this week. Could it get any worse for New York?
That’s right, there’s a more than general consensus that Stoudemire’s impending return will actually damage the Knicks’ newfound cohesion. So much so, in fact, that the campaign to place Stoudemire within the New York’s second unit has already begun. And that’s essentially a kinder way of saying he should accept a diminished role and be delegated to the bench.
The Knicks aren’t paying Stoudemire $100 million to come off the bench, that’s ludicrous. Moving beyond that, though, New York has no reason to hold such an experiment.
Carmelo Anthony is on a tear. He’s averaging over 30 points and shooting better than 50 percent from the field since Stoudemire went down, a span in which the Knicks went 7-4. And that’s obviously enough to conclude that Anthony, and the rest of the team, are better off without Stoudemire in the lineup.
Except that it’s not.
While New York has been rolling, they were 6-1 under Mike Woodson with Stoudemire in the lineup. That’s not to shabby. And although Anthony recaptured his scoring touch without Stoudemire on the active docket, to say he wouldn’t have with him in the rotation is absolutely absurd.
Anthony has a clear edge on offense when starting at the 4. He’s much quicker than most of the other league’s power forwards, and his extensive range forces them out of their interior comfort zone.
However, as we saw Sunday, Anthony also has the edge on shooting guards and other small forwards that are tasked with defending him as well, rendering the former logic less than useless.
And speaking of Sunday, while the Knicks clearly exhibited signs of cohesion and intellect on both ends of the floor, it was far from consistent. Aside from Anthony’s 42 points, only one other player scored more than nine, that person being J.R. Smith. Stoudemire provides New York with a second offensive option that all but ensures the box score will never read such nonsense. And that’s imperative, especially heading into the postseason.
Does Stoudemire’s addition take opportunities away from Anthony? Perhaps, but the small forward will be one of the first to admit he doesn’t need to drop 42 points on a daily basis.
That said, with only 85 points to shower for their efforts at the end of Sunday’s contest, there are clearly more than enough points being left on the board, points which Stoudemire will be glad to put up.
To say, or even believe, that the Knicks are a better team without Stoudemire or that Anthony and he are unable to coexist is ridiculous. And Sunday, on the heels of a loss to a potential playoff opponent, proved that.
There are still plenty of shot opportunities to go around, even with Stoudemire and Anthony in the same lineup. Prior to Stoudemire’s absence, the two were feasting off high pick-and-rolls, a reality that should only become more prevalent now that Anthony’s willingness to run plays and exude selflessness is at an all-time high.
Sunday, the Knicks lost to a star-laden opponent because they couldn’t execute down the stretch. Anthony was held to just two baskets in the fourth quarter and the rest of the team just wasn’t taking advantage of the opportunities presented. Translation? New York lost to a star-laden team because it lacked the necessary star power, outside of Anthony, down the stretch.
For all the cons that come with Stoudemire—defensive liability, injury risk, etc.—his ability to introduce a prolific dynamic is undeniable. He gives the Knicks a reliable source of offense and a body fit for hustle. How is that a bad thing?
It’s not, and this misconception about how the Knicks will fair upon his return is unsettlingly staggering and ill-thought, especially considering that one month ago, it was Anthony who was New York’s biggest problem.
The Knicks are better with Stoudemire in the lineup, plain and simple. To attempt to prove otherwise is futile. There doesn’t have to be an unexplainable explanation for why teams are fairing the way they are without key players in the lineup. Because, after all, by that logic, the Lakers are a far better team without Kobe Bryant.
Sometimes, as crazy and logistically correct as this may read, a team is actually at their best with their best players on the floor, all of them, not just one or some. And the Knicks are no exception.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His basketball musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.