In Tuesday's Knicks win over the Charlotte Bobcats, he pulled a disastrous non-move while "defending" Tyrus Thomas(notes) that would have earned just about every other big in the NBA a seat on the bench; but in the context of that game, it barely registered. Everyone knows Stoudemire stinks, defensively, and that Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni is reportedly loath to push defensive principles to a roster full of players that (mostly) have never been known for their defensive, um, principles.
What we're trying to say is that Amar'e can't defend, and as someone who coached him from December 2003 until May of 2008, and for the first month of this season, the image that Mike D'Antoni gives off leads many to believe that he doesn't seem to care. And then, via SLAM, we read this New York Daily News interview with Stoudemire today that delves into his lack of, eh, defensive principles.
Stoudemire doesn't argue that his reputation as a poor defensive player was well deserved and seemed to suggest that D'Antoni was indirectly responsible.
"It was fair," he said. "I was never taught defense. I just never was taught it in high school and also in the NBA."
Stoudemire added that prior to his final season with the Suns "I took it upon myself to get better defensively" and that Phoenix head coach Alvin Gentry was responsible for that new outlook.
"I've got to give it to Alvin Gentry," Stoudemire added. "He really implemented some strategies that were helpful to me. I took what I learned last year and carried it over to this year."
There's a bit of a problem with this.
For one, D'Antoni took over as Suns coach 21 games into the 2003-04 season. a season that saw Stoudemire suffer through a series of injuries and only play 33 games under his current coach. And the year before that? He played under Frank Johnson, as the Suns enjoyed an 11th-ranking in defense, higher than any point in the D'Antoni era. And while his defense was pretty shocking that year, it did improve month by month.
And giving it up to Alvin Gentry? Well, as has been talked about since a litany of media members gave the Suns credit for supposedly improved defense last season, the Suns were actually 23rd in defensive efficiency, a slight improvement on Terry Porter's time the season before, but far, far worse than the team was ranked defensively during Mike D'Antoni's tenure in Phoenix.
Amar'e does mention his chaotic high school upbringing, which saw him play in six different high schools before being drafted in 2002, and that was needed. But the fault, above anything else, lies with Amar'e. He's developed a jump shot, through the years. A better post game. A better passing game out of double teams. He's gotten much, much better. Despite the defensive issues, we'd all love him on our favorite team. He's worked to come back from two knee surgeries that could have derailed his career, had absolutely no training or guidance of any meaningful basketball sort in high school, and had nearly two of his first four years wiped out due to injury.
But he could have gotten better, defensively. There's been enough time to do that. Mike D'Antoni might like to push the ball and Alvin Gentry's reputation is still without a scratch, but eight and a half years after being drafted into the NBA, Amar'e Stoudemire can't still be playing like this.
And blaming, like this.
- Alvin Gentry