Ball Don't Lie

Amar’e Stoudemire broke New York’s season apart, but we need to give him a break

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

On Monday night, New York Knicks forward/center Amar'e Stoudemire reacted badly to his team's 104-94 loss to the Miami Heat, punching a glass fire extinguisher case in the bowels of the Heat's arena and lacerating his left hand (non-shooting, as if it matters) in the process. It is not yet known if Stoudemire suffered any structural damage to the hand as a result of his outburst, but what is certain is that his 2011-12 season is very much in doubt. Even if he only suffered a nasty gash on the hand, the Heat could have the series wrapped up by the time he returned to action next week.

It was an unfortunate reaction at the very worst time, one that forced Miami paramedics to actually strap Stoudemire to a stretcher while they attended to him. And on cable TV on Tuesday night, the scene will be called all sorts of things beyond "unfortunate." He will be called "misguided" and he will be called "stupid." He will be called all sorts of things by grown men who have no real affiliation with the New York Knicks, and they will hold on to their jobs while a country nods in assent. Stoudemire will represent, in absentia, the New York Knicks' hapless 2011-12 season, one that saw just as much promise and potential waylaid by curious decision-making and inability to sustain smart basketball play.

[Marc J. Spears: Amar'e Stoudemire hurts himself and Knicks with punch through glass]

The pundits will be right. And they'll also be completely out of their gourd at the same time. Because while Stoudemire needed to find some other outlet for his rage, we're all going to have to give the guy a break here.

Stoudemire, via Twitter, was the first one to pounce on his misstep Monday night:

"I am so mad at myself right now," Stoudemire said on his Twitter account late Monday. "I want to apologize to the fans and my team, not proud of my actions, headed home for a new start."

That's not going to do much for Knicks fans, who watched as Stoudemire reportedly wrenched his back in the postseason last year by attempting a dunk men of his age shouldn't really attempt some six years after their final dunk contest appearance -- in pregame warm-ups, no less. Amar'e showed up to the unexpected 2011-12 training camp in less than ideal shape after being photographed all over the greater metropolitan NYC area during the lockout at various fashionista galas.

[Ball Don't Lie: Amar'e Stoudemire mocked with clever fire-extinguisher T-shirt]

He barely reminded of the old Amar'e Stoudemire during the lockout-addled season. Struggling to fit in next to Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony, Stoudemire looked uncharacteristically flustered in the pick-and-roll and less uncharacteristically frustrated at defending quicker power forwards. He missed time because of a bulging disc and following his brother's tragic death in an SUV accident. And while he hasn't exactly been a millstone in New York's two postseason losses, his total of 27 points over both contests only helps to remind of what Stoudemire used to routinely average in one night.

So he punched a glass fire extinguisher case. And what immediately sprung to my mind after reading about the incident later was ,"Why was the case made of glass?" Not why Stoudemire punched it, because we know why. Or why it was his left hand, because the guy obviously knows a thing or two about fighting (never lead with your strong hand). But weren't those things supposed to be made of some breakaway plastic?

What isn't in doubt is why he punched the thing. These games hurt. These seasons wear on people. Inanimate objects look ripe for the taking, money isn't an obstacle, and anger is boiling just below the surface. We demand these players play at a peak level of some unholy combination of rage and fury so as to push our favorite team (or betting line, or fantasy team, or characterization of how pure basketball should be played at all times) over the top, and can't allow for some stupid to set in?

It's going to happen. Stoudemire will have to sit on the Knicks bench in a sling this week, perhaps longer, and that should be all the penalty he deserves. Save your cable TV vitriol for someone who doesn't care. Keep your taunts from your expensive seats to yourself. And Knicks owner James Dolan, the guy who once suspended Latrell Sprewell for breaking his hand doing something Sprewellian on his yacht? Keep the suspension to yourself. Amar'e just suspended himself because he hates that his team can't seem to put anything consistent together during this mess of a season.

Stoudemire will have to answer to this during New York's final few days in the postseason, and it (along with incessant questions about his back and overall health) will be talked about endlessly during the offseason and when the Knicks meet the media this fall. He'll hear about it, and he won't forget about it. Don't worry.

What's probably best for us, in frustration, is to watch what we do. Not pull our own embarrassing version of what Amar'e did in our Wi-Fi or high-definition enabled glass case of emotion. It's probably not going to happen in the hours leading up to tonight's cable TV chat-fests, but it's worth asking about.

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