Nine months ago, Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire were bottoming out at the summit of Lin-sanity. It was a harsh departure from the Frazier-Monroe fantasy many Knicks fans envisioned.
While Anthony is tearing up the league, Stoudemire is still wincing from the stinging pepper spray sensation.
When healthy, Stoudemire is one of the best pick and roll scorers in the league, but last season, it became clear he’d lost a step and much of his explosive hops.
In Monday night’s East River rivalry debut, Anthony and Tyson Chandler scorched the Brooklyn Nets for 73 combined points. Their sizzling output came in a losing effort as the Knicks bench was outscored 13 to 30.
Despite the loss, after the Knicks 9-4 start, Stoudemire may have also lost his spot in the starting lineup. For Stoudemire, this isn’t a demotion, it’s a reassignment.
Chandler is the lanky, reigning Defensive Player of The Year whom Mike Woodson relies on to defend the lane. Anthony has been a revelation (exploiting opposing power forwards who are forced to guard him) on the perimeter and on the blocks.
Meanwhile, the odds are against Stoudemire returning to prime STAT form. Chronic injuries and more surgeries than the $6 Million Dollar Man and have taken their toll on him,.. However, STAT can heed the examples set by Bill Walton and Bob McAdoo.
With his MVP years in his rear view mirror, Walton planted himself on the Boston Celtics bench while fellow ex-MVP McAdoo began his 30s off the bench as a stretch-4/5 (one of the originals) for the Showtime Lakers.
“I was just glad to be able to sit there and cheer and to be Larry Bird's valet, to be sure that his shoes were fine and his uniform was folded neatly." Walton once opined to ESPN on his time in Beantown.
Walton sold himself short. If the Redhead Deadhead was a just valet, then Jam-Master Jay was simply Rev Run and D.M.C.’s CD burner. In ’86, the 34-year-old Walton was named Sixth Man of The Year on Boston’s third title team of the decade.
Stoudemire is four years younger than Walton was at the time, but has at least four more seasons of NBA mileage on his porcelain knees.
Modern day, super sub Manu Ginobili has been the consummate sixth man for Gregg Popovich’s B-Team, much like Lamar Odom, Jason Terry and James Harden have done for their respective title-chasing squads. Notice a theme, yet?
“I think with the way the game is played now in the NBA, to have that guy who can come off the bench and be that troublesome is really an advantage. But a lot depends on if you can find a player who really understands the value of that for the success of the basketball team,” Pops told The Oklahoman.
Since Odom was shuttled off to Dallas, the Lakers reserves have seen a bigger dropoff than the Friday sequels without Chris Tucker.
Stoudemire doesn’t have the defensive acumen to play starter’s minutes at center or the athleticism to compensate offensively anymore, but when Chandler is gathering himself on the pine, he can execute while Steve Novak or ‘Sheed, operate on the high post and behind the arc.
The biggest discrepancy in Stoudemire’s play last season occurred as a result of Chandler debowing his pick-and-roll opportunities. Stoudemire finished more regularly in the paint and at the rim with Chandler on the bench.
This isn’t the first time another big man has put a cramp on STAT’s style. Stoudemire’s best NBA seasons came as a Phoenix Sun—until Shaq threw up speed bumps on the Phoenix Autobahn and had Stoudemire averaging his fewest points per game since his rookie season.
Forcing Stoudemire back in between Carmelo and Stoudemire could ignite a potentially cataclysmic chain of events. For starters, Anthony might revert back to being a chucker on the wing.
In the first seven games of the Mike Woodson era, Anthony shot a frigid 39% from the field. After Stoudemire tweaked his back forcing Anthony to play the majority of his minutes at power forward, his averages spiked to nearly 30 points per, on 50 percent shooting.
Across the sports landscape, winning coaches have enough confidence to make bold adjustments. Over in the Bay Area, Harbaugh benched Alex Smith for Colin Kaepernick and struggling two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum was relegated to the bullpen on the way to San Fran’s World Series title.
In order for this transition to succeed, Stoudemire has to accept that he’s 50 to Anthony’s Floyd Money.
However, if they bring a ‘chip back to the mecca, everybody gets to hold the belt though, even backups.