Mock the New York Knicks all you want for their bloated payroll, their attempts at making the third round of the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, or their front office machinations. The franchise often chooses bombast over cogent, sound planning, and while a 50-win season should be in the offing this year, nobody is placing New York amongst the contenders hoping to knock the Miami Heat off their throne.
The team’s most well-heeled former star, forward Amar’e Stoudemire, does remain a sympathetic figure. Stoudemire was going great guns for the Knicksies in his first season with the team before they decided to deal for Carmelo Anthony in February of 2011. Anthony and Stoudemire’s styles clashed almost immediately, and Amar’e was dealt a crippling blow during the following offseason’s NBA lockout as knee injuries conspired with back woes to turn Stoudemire into a shell of his former self.
Many months of rehabilitation, offseason workouts, and several surgeries later, and Stoudemire appears to be in the same shape he’s been for years – bad shape. And Anthony, watching from afar, truly feels for the guy. From Ian Begley at ESPN New York:
"As a friend, it's hard for me to sit back and act like it doesn't bother me because I know how hard of a worker he is [and] I know the time that he puts in the gym to train and rehab," Anthony said Tuesday. "To see him go forward and then take some steps back every time, it's just sad."
You’ll recall that the Knicks kept Stoudemire’s most recent knee surgery away from the media, and by extension away from Knick fans, over the offseason. Amar’e is hopeful that he can play in at least a few exhibition contests this month, but nothing is certain. And the Knicks, a year older and having added only Andrea Bargnani over the offseason despite losing Chris Copeland, Jason Kidd and Steve Novak, may have peaked with their six-game ouster in last year’s second round.
Begley went on to note that New York is just a game over .500 in 99 regular season contests in which Anthony and Stoudemire play together, and only a miracle and a terrible general manager on the other end of the line (one of which is possible) will allow New York to deal the final two years and $45 million on Stoudemire’s contract.
As it stands, Amar’e will once again have to find a way to contribute while on the floor with some combination of Anthony, Tyson Chandler, and Bargnani occupying the same space. Stoudemire’s work off the bench failed to put New York over the top last season, and with Anthony at his best at the power forward position (that is to say, “Anthony’s position”) “sad” ain’t got nothing to do with it. It’s about production, and Amar’e is in the way.
Which is deadening, if we’re to be as honest as Carmelo was on Tuesday.
It was just three years ago that Stoudemire, coming off a fabulous final season in Phoenix, seemed a fantastic consolation prize for the Knicks after their failed attempt to land LeBron James. He worked wonders for the first half of that season, but by and large the last two and a half years have been a series of disappointments for both Stoudemire and Knick fans. The flash in his game is gone, and despite Stoudemire’s diligent workout routine and dedication, it doesn’t appear that his wheels will ever turn the corner.
So, yes – it is sad. Whether you’re a friend of Amar’e Stoudemire’s or not, a Knick fan or otherwise, this is a frustrating way to go out.