In 2010 when the news broke that Stat had signed with the New York Knicks I was elated. The chance to watch the athletic big man stuff dunks, pick and roll, and lead the Knicks through a new era was exciting to say the least.
Fast forward to the summer of 2013. We sit here today wondering what could have been if Amar’e could’ve stayed in good health. With his body breaking down and 44 million left on the final 2 years of his 5-year deal, NY and Amar’e are both on shaky ground joined at the hip.
The Quagmire: With not much flexibility financially, Glen Grunwald has done the best that he can. Strapped with little maneuverability, Glen has brought in Andrea Bargnani for 2 players in Novak and Camby who were not giving you much. Grunwald and the Knicks were fortunate when Ron Artest Metta World Peace, or whatever his next name will be, fell to them in an Amnesty waiver by the Lakers. New York also just recently re-signed Kenyon Martin to a 1-year deal to be the enforcer and all-around tough guy that the Knicks sorely needed last year. If he can bring that same intensity in the paint this year, New York is deeper than we could have thought.
However, the luminous player in the room is Amar’e Stoudemire and his balky knees. Word has already come down that Stat will have a minute restriction and will most likely not play in back to back games. So in essence Stat might only play 60+ games this year at best, and only 20 minutes of the full 48 allowed in a game. Where does this leave Mike Woodson with this rotation? Woody only likes to play 8-9 players, especially late in the season, and definitely in the playoffs. Depending on his starting line up, the rotation could lock some players out and keep them on the bench.
My Starters: Quite possibly the Knicks rotation could look like this: Fetlon, Shump, Melo, Bargnani, and Tyson. This makes the most sense. This keeps Melo away from getting banged around too much, resulting in him wearing down throughout the course of the season. Andrea at the 4 allows Tyson to roam in the middle cleaning up the glass and flushing down put-backs and alley-oops. Furthermore, when the Knicks run the high pick and roll with Tyson, Barg’s will be on the perimeter waiting for the ball for a jumper or a fake move and a drive to the basket.
This line up also gives the room for Melo to post up in his usually spots. These issues were a problem for the Knicks all last year. Now with a healthy Bargnani in the line up, the paint is open, Tyson has room to roam, and Melo can operate the way he likes. Not to mention this also gives Ray and Shump lanes to drive and penetrate to the basket, or opportunities to drive and kick. This line up is the most logical.
This line up however leaves out Stat, but allows them to use his 20 minutes in a positive way. If he is in the line up he will clog the paint with Tyson, and right now his jumper is not strong enough to leave him on the perimeter, exactly where Bargnani thrives anyway. Stat’s ego will be bruised, but this is the best for the team. Stat can come in for Tyson or Barg’s. This will allow Woody to move Melo to the 4, bring in Peace at the 3, and Stat will be the 5 for short period of time. Or with other options at Woody’s disposal, K-Mart could be the 5 and Stat could be at the 4. Either way, when Stat is in the game the Knicks can run the offense through him, with pick and rolls and deep post-ups in the paint. We all saw how Stat performed in his 2 week stint back from his first surgery. His work with Hakeem was paying off, and we were starting to see how dominant he could be with his back to the basket. This is something I definitely want to see more of, but I also want to see Stat healthy for the entire season and the playoffs. The only way this could happen is if you use him correctly. Put him in positions to succeed. I believe the above plan does just that.
In summary, Stat is here folks. He is not going anywhere due to his contract situation. Bringing Stat off the bench as the 4 or the 5 late in the quarters is the smart way to go. This allows Stat to be the “man” at those moments. He can post up, pick and roll, or simply hit the jumper.
His defense is still suspect, but with the addition of better defenders like K-Mart and Peace, Stat will have some kind of coverage. However, this coverage will not cover up defensive lapses and flat-out mistakes, but nobody can cover up a bad defender regardless of who you have on the team, even if you had Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain or Dikembe Mutombo, Stat would still be exposed.
Remember, Stat will only be available for 20 minutes or less, and NO back to back games. His game time contributions will be limited on a nightly basis and sometimes he will never get off the bench due to his restrictions. Whatever you get from Amar’e at this point is a bonus. If you are going to get a bonus then you better use that bonus properly. Give your bonus the best chance to succeed. I believe that chance is what I have written above.
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