While just about every aspect of this Knicks season is a negative one, there are a couple of exceptions. Tim Hardaway Jr. is displaying his offensive skills and Carmelo Anthony has played like a star for most of the season despite a lack of help. Another small bright spot, at least in my opinion, is the comeback of Amar’e Stoudemire after the abundance of injuries he’s had in recent years. Just him being on the court and able to contribute is a feel-good type of thing, taking into account all that’s gone on since his arrival.
There’s no doubt the contract the Knicks gave Stoudemire has been a recurring nightmare for Knick fans once he got hurt after his first season with the team. Amar’e played at an MVP level in his first season with the Knicks, averaging 25 points to go with eight rebounds while shooting 50% and playing 78 games. The money hasn’t been worth it since.
Over the next two seasons combined STAT only played 76 games thanks to three knee surgeries in eleven months. From that time on, it’s been clear Stoudemire is not the player he used to be and never will be the dominant force he once was. The $20+ million per year contract mixed in with Stoudemire being unable to play eventually caused his falling out with the New York faithful and many fans in the city even resent Amar’e. Unfortunately, the Knicks didn’t foresee his knees giving way to the extent they did and wasted a ton of money in return.
The fact that he is owed $45+ million over this year and next just adds insult to injury when considering it’s one of the Knicks’ bigger financial transgressions in a sea of awful economical decisions. The fact that the team is underperforming to such an extreme extent also adds fuel to the fire. Fact is that Stoudemire’s contract has helped make sure the hamstrung Knicks can’t add talent to the roster. None of the far reaching consequences of his salary can be denied.
For the sake of recognizing the journey he’s been on, I’m going to separate the financial part of it just for a moment. The money end of it will never be justified, so we won’t even try. This year’s installment of Knicks basketball is just so bad that Stoudemire’s money doesn’t bother me nearly as much at the moment as it used to.
The point here for me is how easy it would’ve been for Stoudemire to collect his dough and not care about much else. After all the health disappointments and inability to be an NBA star any longer, he could’ve just been happy with the exorbitant paycheck. But no, Stoudemire did his best to reinvent himself in order to still be productive. That he has, with the development of a post up game and expanding range on his jump shot. Instead of wallowing in the pity of his falling star, STAT worked with Hakeem Olajuwon and after turning 30 has improbably improved himself in some ways.
Although his past injuries prohibit him from playing every single game, Stoudemire has remained mostly healthy while averaging ten points and four rebounds this season. He’s scored double digits in 22 games which may not sound like a lot, but is considering this was a guy so many thought couldn’t ever contribute again. Especially when he was no longer the main man after Anthony arrived. Playing second fiddle, he accepted playing a lesser part in a futile but selfless attempt to win.
STAT has played solid basketball in an embarrassingly disappointing season for his team and one that many thought would be lost for him as a player. After all the injuries and time off, he shows up to play each night he is in uniform and that’s more than we can say for most guys on the roster. Even though it shouldn’t be so, there’s more coming from him than guys like J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton and even Tyson Chandler most days.
His contract is unforgivable and has ravaged the Knicks economically but I applaud Stoudemire as a competitor and athlete, coming back after the turmoil he’s faced in recent years. We shouldn’t forget it was Amar’e who first came here and returned basketball relevance to New York after a decade of futility. Even if it only lasted a couple of years, I would be remiss not to mention how much it mattered at the time. Hopefully within the next 16 months the Knicks will once again be ready for NBA relevance, once Stoudemire and a couple other contracts come off the books.
Until then, it’s nice seeing a once-dominant player have some success out on the court. It’s just too bad for Amar’e that his contributions and effort go for not; overshadowed forever by his contract and an awful season for the Knicks.