Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 8/20/12
Having tucked away the worst season of his NBA career, Amar'e Stoudemire turned to what is being considered divine intervention. Right, he took his retreating post game to Houston and put it in the hands of Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon. There seems to be a lot of that going around. So for the reported cost of 100,000 for about one week of around-the-basket tutoring, the former Suns power forward attempted to refine his foot work and -- perhaps -- upgrade a go-to move. Certainly, Olajuwon's career catalog of drop-steps, jump hooks and the ol' Dream Shake seems sufficient to awaken the slumbering, low-post repertoire of any NBA player. And Stoudemire, whose scoring average dipped to around 17.5 points per game for the Knicks last season (taking his career mark down to 21.6), seemed to be worthy of a boost. But, as one NBA assistant coach employed by a Western Conference team put it, "I find that pretty interesting ... almost comical." It should be noted that this assistant spends a nice chunk of his summer traveling the nation to provide skill work for players on the team he helps coach. So, like many others fitting his job description, the notion that a retired superstar such as Olajuwon is required to demonstrate specific maneuvers is more than a little irritating. "I mean, we can teach the drop-step, the jump hook and all of that," the coach said. But he did stop short of accusing Olajuwon of a Dream Shakedown. "Hey, the important thing is that he (Stoudemire) is working," the coach said. "If the guy -- the trainer you're working with -- knows anything about basketball, any work that you do should be beneficial. If you're working hard, it's going to help you get better." It should be noted that Amar'e's productivity should benefit even more from an upcoming training camp with coach Mike Woodson, who'll be able to install an offensive system to take greater advantage of Stoudemire and the skills of teammate Carmelo Anthony. After spending recent years in a Mike D'Antoni system that largely kept the ball in the mitts of the point guard, the aforementioned Knicks forwards should benefit from Woodson's tactics, which figure to provide more opportunities near the cup. DREAM SEASON? While working with Olajuwon was hailed as a boon to the post play of Suns center Marcin Gortat, the numbers may not support this opinion. The Polish Hammer, who made the trek to Houston in the summer of 2011, did have a nice season in Phoenix. But the perceived motivation for working with Hakeem -- becoming a greater threat on the post -- wasn't exactly realized. A look at the numbers tells us Gortat was used in post isolation plays only 13 times last season. Does that mean coach Alvin Gentry ignored an opportunity to generate offense? Well, no. Since Marcin only scored on three of those possessions and coerced a meager three fouls, going to that well more often probably would have been a waste of time. According to the stat fiends at Synergy Sports, Gortat's points-per-play on the block was .75, which ranked him 118th in the league. It's interesting to note that after working with Hakeem, Gortat still relied heavily on a lefty hook when receiving the ball on the post. I watched Olajuwon starting in his early days at the University of Houston and never witnessed him using his left hand to shoot on the post. To be fair, there's much more to playing on the post than copying another player's particular go-to move and counter, so using the lefty hook doesn't mean working with Hakeem provided no benefit. But even for a professional athlete, that's a pretty steep price tag to check in at 118th. My wife suggested that anyone hoping to replicate some of Olajuwon's magic might be better served downloading some of his game video, watching it over and over and trying to act accordingly. Without Steve Nash setting his table, Gortat may have to produce a skill upgrade of some sort. To his credit, it's a safe bet to assume he's been working hard. SUMMER SCHOOL According to the bright minds at NBA.com, the Suns' overall grade on their summer report card is a resounding C-plus. The work of Lance Blanks, Lon Babby and the gang produced marks of B-minus for the frontcourt, C-plus for the backcourt, D for defense, C-plus for the bench and a B for coaching. We're not sure if these grades -- bestowed upon readers by Scott Howard-Cooper -- reflect the summer transactions or simply list where the team stands in these categories now that the offseason maneuvers have been made. It should be noted that NBA.com's David Aldridge lists the Suns in his "Middle 10" (16th overall) for summer roster changes.
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