Knicks, Stoudemire are a perfect match
No surprise that Amar’e Stoudemire signed with the New York Knicks. After all, he made his intentions even more conspicuous than his apostrophe.
In extolling the virtues of STK — a high-end chain with branches in West Hollywood and South Beach — and an industrial-strength musical called “Rock of Ages” — the touring version will hit Columbus, Minneapolis and Lauderdale before year’s end — Stoudemire seems immune to the few remaining charms of New York.
I mean, the guy spent a holiday weekend with owner Jim Dolan in the Hamptons. If that didn’t scare him out of town, nothing would.
Then again, Stoudemire didn’t come for cosmopolitan life. He came for the max contract. This wasn’t about the town. This was about a team that has little left but its own invincible sense of grandiosity.
Give the Knicks credit, though. Regimes may change, but their strategy does not. In committing roughly $100 million to Stoudemire, the Knicks are doing what they have done since at least 1975, when they traded cash and a draft pick for Spencer Haywood. They’re overpaying for good-not-great talent.
Let me try to be fair, something that’s admittedly difficult as it regards my now ancient prejudice against the Knicks. The team has tanked two full seasons to acquire LeBron James. And that’s the only way this move can be justified: if signing Stoudemire helps to sign James. For sure, Stoudemire makes the Knicks more attractive. But more attractive than Chicago or Cleveland? I think not.
The Bulls have a young and talented roster with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. The Cavaliers are James’ hometown franchise, with the best regular-season record two years running. Cleveland can offer him the best financial terms. New York offers a history that is largely artifice.
“The Knicks are back,” proclaimed Stoudemire.
Back to what? The franchise hasn’t been relevant since Amar’e and LeBron were in junior high. The Knicks haven’t won a championship since Richard Nixon was in the White House in ’73.
Yes, the Knicks have acquired that second star. But considering the team’s last max player was Stephon Marbury, it’s worth asking if he’s the right one? Again, I think not.
According to the arcane NBA salary rules, Stoudemire — who’ll be in his eighth pro season — would make slightly more than James, who has seven years of service, in their first year with the Knicks. OK, maybe that’s not an insurmountable problem. Anyone following all this free agent recruiting — a ritual in which middle-aged men must prostrate themselves to 25-year-olds — knows it has absolutely nothing to do with ego.
More problematic are Stoudemire’s limitations as a player. There’s a reason — a bunch of them, actually — that his now-former team, the Phoenix Suns, was only willing to guarantee a reported $71 million. He’s had microfracture surgery on a knee and another procedure to repair a detached retina.
And though Stoudemire is possessed of supreme physical ability, he still can’t go left. Worse still, for a guy that big and strong — 6-foot-10 and built like a Greek statue — he’s not the rebounder he should be.
Consider the recent Lakers-Suns series. In six games, he tallied double-figure rebounds just once. In three of those, he had fewer than five. Not only was he outrebounded by Lamar Odom, in the last game, he was outrebounded by his own point guard, Steve Nash.
And that brings me to another point. It was Stoudemire’s great good fortune to play alongside Nash, with whom he had achieved a state of pick-and-roll simpatico. According to STATS LLC, Nash had an assist in well over a third of Stoudemire’s baskets. That’s 2,310 points in basically five seasons. Over four playoff campaigns, Nash had an assist on 44 percent of Stoudemire’s baskets. And none of this includes the points Nash helped create for Stoudemire on the free-throw line.
There’s a lot of talk about Stoudemire being reunited with his former coach Mike D’Antoni. Unfortunately, neither of them is being reunited with the player most responsible for their success. Steve Nash made Phoenix the most exciting team never to go to the NBA Finals.
The Knicks don’t even have a legitimate point guard under contract — unless you count Toney Douglas, whom they acquired from the Lakers for cash and a draft pick. Who knows? Maybe they’ll max him out, too.