Amar'e Stoudemire recently said he could return to the hardwood on New Year's Day, according to Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com.
The Knicks have gotten to where they are (20-8 record, 5.5-game lead in the Atlantic Division) largely because of their chemistry. They have also gotten off to a hot start because of the play of Carmelo Anthony.
Both of these advantages could be deadened if Stoudemire was thrown back into the starting lineup.
However, if Stoudemire comes off the bench, you have a guy who averaged 17.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks last season as part of your second unit. Talk about a sixth man.
This would also allow both Anthony and Stoudemire to be the stars of the offense, without getting in each other's way too much (as they were at times last season). Anthony would get most of the shots in the starting lineup, and Stoudemire could get most of the shots coming off the bench while Anthony either rests or plays within the game plan.
It's actually a dream scenario for New York, believe it or not. The original plan was to have Stoudemire and Anthony leading the starting lineup, but things have changed. With the additions of Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton and 35-year-old rookie Pablo Prigioni in the offseason (not to mention Jeremy Lin leaving for the Houston Rockets), the Knicks have taken on an entirely new identity. It's become about chemistry more than star power and blinding athleticism.
There is no reason Stoudemire wouldn't be able to contend for the Sixth Man of the Year award off the bench, and help the Knicks in the process. More pressure would be taken off Stoudemire and his defensive shortcomings wouldn't matter as much taking on the role of a scorer off the bench.
What Woodson does once Stoudemire is healthy enough to play will not only determine the Knicks' success moving forward, it will determine the happiness of both Stoudemire and Anthony, the team's highest-priced stars.
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