He was the one. The only one. The one who said yes to the Mecca. The one who took on the challenge, said all the right things and looked capable of fulfilling the promise. He was going to be instrumental in turning it all around, and he did that in the 255 regular season games out of the 381 scheduled. The Knicks lost more with Amar’e Stoudemire than won but it was not his entirely his fault. Injuries, poor coaching, poor management skills and good old fashioned bad luck stunted Stoudemire from flourishing more in New York.
The summer of LeBron had Knicks fans dreaming the impossible, they won’t admit it now but the buzz was that the Knicks were major players for the King. We all know what happened, he went to south beach and collected two rings. So that left the Knicks with loads of cap space and no one to claim it.
Enter Stoudemire, the talented man-child power forward who when healthy was an offensive monster. Coming off his last year in Phoenix where he averaged 23 and 9, the only question that nagged him was injuries. The Knicks were desperate and gave Stoudemire 100 million reasons to come to NYC. He was the new face of the franchise and looked ready to embrace everything New York had to offer.
He dropped 25 and 8 during his first year and when the Knicks brought in Carmelo Anthony seven months later it looked like the Knicks were well on their way back to contending. Add Tyson Chandler to the mix and you could argue that the Knicks had assembled one of the greatest front lines in the last 25 years.
Then the dysfunction that dogged the Knicks in the prior decade snuck its ugly head back into MSG.
The inability of coach Mike D’Antoni to figure out a way to have a system that allowed his two best players in Anthony and Stoudemire to get buckets was a detriment to the Knicks success. Anthony continued his ball hogging ways and it created a riff between him and the guy who made the Knicks relevant enough for Anthony to even come to New York in the first place. D’Antoni and the rest of Knicks management failed to step to Anthony so Stoudemire was relegated to the bench. They could and should have played together. They could have had a deadly inside out game between the two but no one in Knick land thought to inform the coach.
Injuries were next for Stat. Back, knee and ankle injuries along with other various ailments sidelined Stat year after year. Minutes restrictions were in place by then coach Mike Woodson and management seemed to baby Stoudemire in his return which I’m sure partly had to do with the ridiculous notion that him and Anthony couldn’t play together.
In that first year the Knicks were knocked out the playoffs in the first round against Boston in a winnable series. After losing game one by only a bucket, Stoudemire decided to stage a mini slam dunk competition on the layup line leading into game two and injured himself. He and the Knicks were never the same and got swept. Then there was the fire extinguisher incident down in South beach where Stoudemire punched a fire extinguisher that knocked him out of game three after a Game two defeat to the Heat.
Those two incidents created a shift in the way he was looked at. Injuries are part of the game and fans knew that Stoudemire had bad knees when he got here but to self inflict injuries to your self…twice…in the playoffs had the man who created Knickstape being the poster child of the dysfunction in Knick land.
For a guy that got railed on so much he averaged 17 and 7 in his 5 years in New York. That’s not 100 million dollars worth but a lot more than the guy that was often times called a bum, questioned about his work ethic and had his ability slandered. It was not his fault that D’Antoni refused to incorporate him more into the same system the two ran together with record breaking results in Phoenix. It wasn’t his fault that the Knicks brought in a new player to call the face of the franchise and relegated Stoudemire to second fiddle seven months after giving him the key to the city and calling him the savior. And it certainly was not his fault that Mike Woodson got the job of permanent head coach after D’Antoni left due to his constant appeasement to Anthony.
All in all the Stoudemire signing signaled a change for the Knicks. The franchise was no longer dormant. It accomplished what it intended. It lured another star in Anthony to force a trade to New York so that a potential Big 3 could be built to contend. The Knicks had their run as the two seed in 2012 and got as far as the second round versus the Pacers. If not for some phantom calls going against the Knicks, they could have had a showdown with the Heat to go to the Finals.
Now as he exits the Mecca it’s very much in the same stupor it was in before he signed on the dotted line five years ago. The punchlines about the franchise on late night television have come back, the paper bag wearing fans have resurfaced and its all doom and gloom. Say what you want about Stoudemire but what went down in Gotham had more to do with his employer than him.
So pour a glass of your favorite red this May and June as Stat finds his way to a contender to get a championship.