On the bench is where Amar’e Stoudemire of the New York Knicks will stay.
According to Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com, the power forward is now allowed to play between 25 and 30 minutes a game, yet coach Mike Woodson has no plans to move him into the starting lineup:
“He’ll get better as the year goes on,” Woodson said. “I think if we give him more touches down there and his minutes start to grow a little bit … he’s going to be just fine.”
Another positive for Stoudemire on Sunday? Woodson said before the game that his minutes limit increased to 25-30.
Stoudemire’s minutes had been capped at 20-23 by the Knicks’ medical staff earlier in the week.
But Stoudemire will continue to come off the bench for the time being, Woodson said.
Woodson has said he wouldn’t consider inserting Stoudemire into the starting lineup until his minutes are no longer restricted. When asked about the possibility of starting Stoudemire on Sunday, Woodson was evasive.
“Again, we’re just going to gradually play him and see how things go and [Sunday] he’ll come off the bench,” the coach said.
Though Woodson was anything but committal as to where Stoudemire would play as he continues to improve, the smart move is—and always has been—to leave him with the second-unit.
New York has experimented with some bigger starting lineups over the past few games, almost as if to prepare themselves for Stoudemire’s return to it, but the six-time All-Star serves this team best coming off the bench.
Because the Knicks are at their best when playing small-ball. Doing so opens up the floor for shooters and it is how Carmelo Anthony has emerged as an MVP candidate. Why would you want to give that up?
You shouldn’t, so it’s up to Woodson to remain committed to this small-ball concept. He must not only bring Stoudemire off the bench, but allow him to spend a majority of his minutes at the center position. This allows him to play alongside Anthony for extended periods of time while also putting Stoudemire himself in the best position to succeed.
That’s correct, the power forward is best served as a center. He’s already proven that much.
Playing the 5, Stoudemire has an athletic and mobility edge (bad back, knees and all) over most of the NBA’s traditional centers. His ability to stretch the defense with his range but compress them with his post moves are enough to befuddle any opposing big man.
Let’s also not neglect to mention that only last year—the worst season of Stoudemire’s career since he was a rookie—the power forward (via 82games.com) posted a PER of 25 per 48 minutes at the center spot. The year before that, Stoudemire’s first season with the Knicks, he posted a PER of 24.3 per 48 minutes as a 5.
That’s no coincidence, especially considering 2010-11 was the year that Stoudemire was considered an early MVP candidate.
Thus, shifting STAT to center almost exclusively not only allows him to play alongside Anthony—who is best served as a power forward—but it gives him the best possible chance to return to that very dominance everyone in New York speaks of.
So, of course leaving Stoudemire in the second-unit right now is the correct call.
And as long as Woodson knows that playing him at center gives him and the team the best possible chance at success, it will remain the right call for the rest of the season.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.