It's a fact that Amar'e Stoudemire will soon return to the New York Knicks' star-studded rotation, but how STAT performs upon his return might as well be a 6'11" question mark.
Head coach Mike Woodson is convinced that he can work Stoudemire in successfully once his knee is 100 percent and that the veteran power forward will adjust to his new role, but not everyone else is so sure. After all, we've seen the Knicks when Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony are on the floor at the same time, and often times it isn't pretty.
Now, with The New York Times' Howard Beck reporting that the Knicks were looking to part ways with Stoudemire last season and throughout this past offseason, the relationship between Stoudemire and the rest of the team could potentially get even uglier:
This past summer, the Knicks offered Stoudemire to nearly every team in the league — “available for free,” as one rival executive put it. But they found no takers because of his diminished production, his health and his contract, which has three years and $65 million remaining (counting this season) and which is uninsured against a career-ending knee injury.
There's no way this news doesn't rub Stoudemire the wrong way, regardless of whether he understands that the NBA is a business. He's aware of his missed time, his decreased production and now the Knicks' lack of commitment to him.
The only question is whether STAT will be motivated to make New York look foolish for trying to trade him, or wither away following one of the more trying periods of his 10-year NBA career.
He was always the man in Phoenix, and was the man in New York for a brief period before Anthony's arrival. Since then, however, Stoudemire has entered uncharted territory, and it's only going to get stranger as he gets set to embrace a new role.
Once viewed as the Knicks' savior, Stoudemire could very well be coming off the bench for New York this season, which would be trouble amid the rumors that the team was aggressively shopping him this past year.
It would be unfair to label STAT as a mentally fragile player, but it's not unrealistic to believe that all the trade talk has had a negative impact on him and the production the Knicks will get from him when he does return.
Stoudemire's minutes decreased noticeably from 2010-11 to 2011-12, and his shot attempts per game also decreased dramatically. He went from attempting 19 shots in 36.8 minutes per night in his first year in New York to just 14 shots in 32.8 minutes per game last season. STAT's scoring production decreased by eight points per game over that time as well.
There's no denying that the Knicks' lack of commitment in their star power forward has and will continue to make an impact. If New York believes it can challenge the Miami Heat for the Eastern Conference without Stoudemire, that's fine by me.
But if the Knicks hope to get help from Amar'e Stoudemire along the way and make the most of the rest of his time in the Big Apple, they must affirm their support for the man they originally asked to be the face of the franchise two-and-a-half years ago.
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