What does it take to successfully invest in the financial capital of the world? In a few weeks, we may find out...or we may not.
So far this year, Knicks fans are enjoying the continuation of Extreme Makeover: New York edition. With a roster which resembles the cast from Cocoon (translation: they’re old), one half expects a tray full of inhalers next to the Gatorade on the bench.
What’s also grown old is the frustration fans have felt when basketball is no longer relevant in the Big Apple after the month of May.
Yet, here they are, in November, off to an impressive 9-3 start, leading an Atlantic division which is up for grabs and contending in an equally wide-open Eastern Conference this side of South Beach.
And doing it all without their biggest investment.
Which begs the question: What should be done with Amar’e Stoudemire upon his return?
First, let’s confirm what won’t be done. He will not be traded. Believe it or not, there isn’t much of a market for an injury-prone player on the wrong side of 30 making $20 million annually with three seasons left on his contract.
He will not get amnestied. This can’t be done right now, but it won’t be done later, either. Wasting money has certainly been a Knicks staple in recent years, but these aren’t your father’s (or Isiah's) Knickerbockers; therefore, eating any portion of any salary doesn’t seem likely. And although nobody’s talking about the future right now anyway—not with this aging group—they’d want to make sure there’s a return on their investment three years from now as well.
So now that we know what they won’t do, what they should do really boils down to two options: To start or not to start?
The school of thought for starting Stoudemire upon his return is simple: It’s all he really knows. He hasn’t come off the bench since the 2003-04 season and since then, he’s done quite well standing on the court come tip-off time.
The rebuttal for this is even simpler: so what?
First of all, in a time when the league has a pittance of talented back-to-the-basket big men, it is an extreme luxury for a team to have a surplus. With Anthony holding his own at the 4, and Tyson Chandler doing what he does on defense at the 5, it’s not as if there’s a gaping hole which immediately needs to be filled, a la the 76ers with Andrew Bynum.
Second, if it aint broke, don’t fix it. Change for the sake of change typically isn’t a popular route to take when a team is in first place with a 9-3 record.
Lastly, plugging another proven scorer in off the bench, while at the same time giving the current go-to guys an extra blow, would be progress in and of itself.
And although progress as a team would technically be getting past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2000, the expectations run even higher with this type of pedigree.
In fact, they need not look further than their own locker room as an example of what to do.
Currently, Jason Kidd and Rasheed Wallace average a combined 40 minutes of playing time through 11 games. However, once a Game 83 takes place, it’s safe to assume that total will spike between the two of them, who also happen to both be owners of a championship ring.
Why not have a third veteran with equally fresh legs to help make an extended run into June?
In a city well aware of "The Ewing Theory,” it’s interesting to point out the Knicks’ surprisingly stellar record without Amar’e in the lineup. That said, it’s ludicrous to deduce from this that a team which regularly gets beaten on the boards and in the paint couldn’t benefit from the services of a man who’s averaged nearly nine rebounds and a block-and-a-half per game over the course of his career.
Therefore, the best possible solution is to hold up the yield sign and proceed with caution.
The Garden has seen its share of looks-great-on-paper squads, but, outside of fantasy league fanatics, fans aren’t interested in gaudy stats.
Hell, New Yorkers could even care less about a stellar regular-season record. Just ask the Bulls how that worked out for them. (In fact, when you do, follow that up with how they plan to handle their own injured star’s return in Derrick Rose. Slowly and gradually would be a fair guess.)
What matters most is what happens after May. And what matters then is that the Knicks will have their biggest investment around to contribute.