The New York Knicks have nobody to blame but themselves for donating over $40 million to the Amar’e Stoudemire charity fund the last two years. Stoudemire’s lingering knee issues caused him to miss 53 games last season, in which he played a diminished role in an offense led by Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith. So, the Knicks just wrote a $20 million check to a guy that averaged 14.2 points and 5 rebounds in 23.5 minutes of action per game last season
Stoudemire’s contract is uninsured, which means he will see his money even if he is judging Miss America pageants instead of working on his low-post skills. The Knicks have set up Stoudemire to fail from day one because of their failure to attract bigger names in the 2010 free agency period and by pairing him with a superstar who cannot function in a transition offense.
Amar’e Stoudemire was the first domino to fall in the star-studded 2010 free agency class. The Knicks had cleared enough cap space to land two big-name free agents, and they thought signing Stoudemire would attract a bigger name such as LeBron James or Dwyane Wade. The latter was a proven winner who needed more pieces around him to return to championship form. Similarly, LeBron was looking to join a squad that was a skilled point forward away from being a title contender. Both LeBron and Wade could have complemented Stoudemire as they excel in a transition offense. Little did the Knicks know that Wade, James and Chris Bosh were looking to join forces and form a super team.
The Knicks squandered an opportunity to pair Stoudemire with another superstar, but that didn’t stop Amar’e from leading the Knicks to the fourth seed in the East at the All-Star break of the 2010-11 season. Stoudemire set two franchise records with nine straight 30-point games and nine straight games shooting 50 percent or better from the field. At that time, Raymond Felton was having success in the pick-and-roll and the Knicks were feeding off their shooters in Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler.
Even though the team was having success running the offense through Stoudemire, they opted to trade their supporting pieces to the Nuggets in exchange for Carmelo Anthony, who did not fit into D’Antoni’s system and could not co-exist on the floor with Stoudemire. It became quite clear that Anthony and Stoudemire could not find a way to play together at the tail end of the 2010-11 season, as the Knicks fell to the sixth seed and got bounced in the first round of the NBA Playoffs by the Celtics.
Carmelo soon became the alpha male of the offense and commanded the fan base’s respect. While Amar’e could still score at a high level, his knee issues kept him sidelined and unable to make an impact in the postseason. Once again, Anthony proved that he lacked the leadership and skill set to get his teammates involved in the game and play consistent defense during the 2011-12 season. In 2012-13, Anthony managed to get the Knicks to the conference semifinals, but the Indiana Pacers, a better defensive and rebounding team, ousted them in six games.
Some will say that hindsight is 20/20 and that the Knicks could not have predicted Amar’e would re-aggravate his knee and be sidelined for an entire season. While that may be true, the Phoenix Suns knew the risk of giving Stoudemire a maximum deal and opted not to re-sign a player with a lengthy injury history. The Knicks chose to take a chance on the high-risk, high-reward Stoudemire, and they are living with the harsh consequences right now.
Amar’e Stoudemire can surprise us all and return to his old form next year, but he is hardly the player the Knicks want to rely on to make a championship run. Carmelo desperately needs another 20-point scorer to ease the load and contribute on the defensive end, but the Knicks are strapped for cash as their $100 million man just can’t get his knees right.
Overall, the Knicks acquired Stoudemire as bait for a bigger free agent in 2010, but ultimately missed the boat and landed a superstar that simply does not have the court vision and leadership that Dwyane Wade and LeBron James possess. With the offense running through Carmelo, Stoudemire will end up getting limited touches and be forced to create his own shot without a pick-and-roll offense. If Melo ends up bolting for greener pastures in the offseason, the Knicks will be in the same position they were in before the summer of 2010, but their pockets will be $20 million lighter.