Ever since one of the biggest trades in recent NBA history went down in February of 2011, there have been questions regarding the on-court relationship between the centerpiece of that trade, Carmelo Anthony, and Amar'e Stoudemire—who came to the New York Knicks in the summer of 2010 knowing neither LeBron James or Dwyane Wade would join him on Broadway.
In his first season in New York, Stoudemire carried a young, inexperienced Knicks squad to relevance, but owner James Dolan decided it wasn't enough, trading much of the roster for Anthony, a Brooklyn native. For the rest of that season and much of the next, the Knicks struggled before finally parting ways with Mike D'Antoni.
Under Mike Woodson, the Knicks went on a tear to end the season, with Anthony carrying the load along with Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler, after Stoudemire missed some weeks with an injury.
In the playoffs, the Knicks were torched in Miami in the first two games, causing Stoudemire to infamously smash the glass of a fire extinguisher container, cutting his hand and forcing him to miss Game 3 at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks, led by Anthony yet again, were able to salvage Game 4 before finally being eliminated in Game 5, raising questions whether he, Chandler and an injury-plagued Stoudemire could win on a consistent basis together.
In the offseason, Stoudemire received some training from the legendary Hakeem Olajuwon, whose Rockets defeated the Knicks in the 1994 NBA Finals. Amar'e looked as if his defensive skills were improving and his offensive prowess.
Going into the 2012-13 NBA season, Stoudemire suffered a serious knee injury that would keep him out for two months. However, the Knicks did just fine without him, slotting Anthony at power forward and going 21-9 in November and December.
During the Knicks' successful run in the first two months, there were constant questions from the media over how Stoudemire would fit in with Mike Woodson's system with Anthony and Chandler, as the Knicks were playing some outstanding offense and defense and STAT's defensive abilities were always criticized.
Many suggested that Amar'e should come off the bench and should be willing to. Luckily, he's been a good soldier and accepted becoming a featured bench player.
Those questions were made more prevalent as the Knicks started 2013 just 2-4, with losses at home to nemeses Boston and Chicago, and tough battles against Portland and Indiana. Stoudemire looked the same as last year, taking bad shots and playing poor defense.
Since then, he and the Knicks started to figure it out, as Amar'e has played much better defense and his offense looks better than ever, shooting .659 from the field and averaging almost 17 points a game. Overall, Amar'e is averaging 13.9 PPG in less than 23 minutes a game, shooting .584 from the field and .808 from the free-throw line.
So far, advanced metrics suggest that trio of Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler has been indeed working this season. With all three on the court, the Knicks have an offensive efficiency of 118.5 and a defensive efficiency of 99.7. Also, the Knicks shoot .487 with the three on and the opposition shoots .436.
I think this all but proves that the problem the first two years was not Amar'e and Melo, but the coaching. Mike D'Antoni was a bad fit for the Knicks when he was here, and he's being even more exposed for the fraudulent coach that he is.
Mike Woodson has made this Knicks roster work since taking over for the Pringles Man last March, turning the Knicks into championship contenders, especially now that he has one of the most complete teams in the NBA.
None of this could have happened if Amar'e hadn't agreed to take a bench assignment. Overnight, he's also turned the Knicks second unit of Steve Novak, J.R. Smith, Pablo Prigioni, Chris Copeland and himself into one of the deadliest in the league.
So far it's clear that Melo and Amar'e work well together now that they have the coaching; one has to wonder how far they can take this Knicks team that's already first in the Atlantic, second in the East and has already proved they can hang with the Miami Heat.
Perhaps they can take this team to its first championship in 40 years? It really seems as if the sky's the limit right now.