When Amare Stoudemire signed a five-year, $100 million contract in 2010, the New York Knicks were back on the map from a marketing standpoint—they had an All-Star that would electrify Madison Square Garden.
Fast-forward through several losses, a number of injuries and a trade that landed Carmelo Anthony in New York, and we're at present day.
It's no secret that since the arrival of Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire has let go of the reins. As a result, he has become second-favorite in New York. However, with some time and effort, Amar'e can win the New York fans back...well, at least some of them.
Get Minutes Restriction Lifted
Since coming back from that knee injury, Stoudemire has been on the floor for 12 games, but his minutes have been limited.
While his 22.4 minutes per game have been good enough for averages of 12.6 points and 4.3 rebounds, Stoudemire needs to get closer to the 30 minute average to be more of a force for New York.
When he does get the restriction lifted, he'll gain the respect of the crowd because his production will also increase—putting him in the good graces of those in attendance at Madison Square Garden.
Excel in Bench Role
We've seen that Amar'e is willing to accept his bench role under Coach Mike Woodson, but in order for him to win back Knicks fans he's going to have to excel in this role.
A perfect example of Stoudemire showcasing his talents off the bench came just the other night when the Knicks squared off against the Philadelphia 76ers. In this game, Stoudemire played great ball—better than most of his teammates—and looked closer to returning to form.
Amar'e had 12 points in the first half, and he finished the game with 20. Stoudemire made his presence known as he was actually playing defense.
Marc Berman noticed and sent this tweet out to his followers:
To show that this game was no fluke, in New York's next game against the Atlanta Hawks, Amar'e scored 18 points while grabbing eight rebounds.
Everyone is taking notice to his improvements and the way he's flourished off the bench in Woodson's system.
It's clear that Stoudemire is getting his rhythm back with a little extra oomph that he picked up from training with Hakeem Olajuwon, and as a result, he's able to create enough space for separation and hit a shot, or he can spin toward the basket for a layup.
No disrespect to current Knicks' sixth man J.R. Smith, but Amar'e is certainly a more entertaining option as first one off the bench. He brings more to the table than Smith, doesn't need the ball to have a positive impact on his team, and I doubt Stoudemire will be as inconsistent as Smith.
Knocking Smith over a spot would get Knicks fans on the edge of their seats.
Make the Stat-and-Melo Connection Work
Stoudemire has to show that he and Anthony can make things work. Even if Stoudemire is coming off the bench, there are going to be times when he and Carmelo share the floor.
If you recall during the matinee against the Brooklyn Nets, Carmelo was trying to find Amar'e on several occasions. For the most part, Stoudemire couldn't handle the passes and came up empty, but there were times when he did finish.
While Amar'e is getting back in the groove, the forward is also taking time adjusting back to the rigors of the game. It will take a few more contests before Stoudemire is as effective as he was when he left.
Fortunately, fans witnessed some improvements in the duo's chemistry, and we saw Melo and STAT connect several times since the return.
In the Philadelphia game, Stoudemire dished to Anthony for a basket and Melo connected with Amar'e twice. What the statistics won't show is how Anthony made the extra pass that eventually found it's way to Stoudemire.
Although it's still early to tell, the two have progressed significantly since last year's sharing of the hardwood. For the most part, fans love the tandem when their combined efforts are winning the club games.