As the New York Knicks roll along, they get ever-closer to the return of Amar'e Stoudemire and will have to make a decision as to what to do with him sooner rather than later.
It doesn't seem that he'll be back on Christmas Day game against the Los Angeles Lakers, but perhaps he'll return during their three-game west coast swing.
So we won't see Amar'e Stoudemire on Christmas Day in LA. We might not see him at all on the upcoming trip. More: sulia.com/c/new-york-kni…— Alan Hahn (@alanhahn) December 24, 2012
At the very latest it seems as if the Knicks will welcome Amar'e back to the lineup by the time they return home to take on the Portland Trail Blazers on New Year's Day.
Amar'e will be back soon, so what's the plan?
Is he going to be coming in off the bench as was speculated for the past month or so? Or will they eventually end up seeing what he can do as the team's power forward, taking their chances with wrecking the team's chemistry?
The Knicks have four lineups that have played at least 70 minutes so far this season, the only thing mixed up being shooting guard and small forward.
It varies between a 2-3 combination of Jason Kidd and Ronnie Brewer, Kidd and J.R. Smith, Smith and Steve Novak and finally Smith and Brewer.
The point guard for each of those lineups remains constant with Raymond Felton, while Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony hold down the 4 and 5-spot.
Those four lineups have a +/- of an impressive +101, playing with excellent offensive efficiency and good enough defense to beat their opponents.
Moving past those four top lineups, Anthony plays power forward in five more lineup combinations (combining for a +/- of +38), with only one lineup dropping into the negative.
Anthony plays small forward in just two of their 20 most-used lineups, combining for a +/- of just +3.
A big part of that is that Anthony has had an amazing season so far. Whether it's because he's playing power forward or that he's locked in is up in the air, although it seems like the power-forward spot suits him more.
Why would the Knicks want to jeopardize the effectiveness of their team by introducing Amar'e into the lineup as the power forward?
It can be done, but it would be a delicate situation.
To put it basically, if Amar'e can come in and focus on playing in the post while doing his best to be physical on defense, the Knicks should be fine.
Amar'e Stoudemire will do everything he can to blend in and adjust himself to the New York Knicks upon his return, according to a source.— NBA Rumors (@NBARUMORS) December 22, 2012
If he insists on going back to his old role, getting 13-16 shots per game and hanging out near the perimeter and away from the paint on offense, he'll likely mess with the team's offensive flow whenever he's on the court with Carmelo Anthony.
As Mike Woodson has done all season with this Knicks' lineup, I expect an interesting solution to the entire situation.
Initially, it makes sense to bring Amar'e in off the bench. Work him in with Anthony as the season rolls along and put out feelers to see how they play together.
Woodson should experiment putting Stoudemire and Anthony on the floor together whenever Tyson Chandler gets his rest.
Something that would be interesting, however, would be to see the three of them in the lineup together with Stoudemire playing a traditional small-forward role on offense. Get him cutting to the hoop off screens and shooting jumpers as Anthony keeps doing what he's been doing.
It should make no difference for Anthony as it is, as he's been pulling the opponent's best defender taller than 6'5" over the course of the season, and that's something that shouldn't change.
I don't think it's going to be the upsetting situation that we've been making it out to be over the past two months, mostly because of Woodson's terrific use of lineups this season.
He just seems to know how to put the right players together and get them to jell.
That, combined with the fact that the work ethic of this team has been off the charts compared to the past few seasons, should force Stoudemire to live up to his teammates' expectations, not just his own.