Pricey post-up help for Amar'e

BY foxsports • August 20, 2012

Having tucked away the worst season of his NBA career, Amar'e Stoudemire
turned to what is being considered divine
intervention.

Right, he took his retreating post game
to Houston and put it in the hands of Hall of Fame center Hakeem
Olajuwon. There seems to be a lot of that going around.


So for the reported cost of $100,000 for about one
week of around-the-basket tutoring, the former Suns power forward
attempted to refine his foot work and -- perhaps -- upgrade a go-to
move. Certainly, Olajuwon's career catalog of drop-steps, jump hooks and
the ol' Dream Shake seems sufficient to awaken the slumbering, low-post
repertoire of any NBA player.

And Stoudemire, whose
scoring average dipped to around 17.5 points per game for the Knicks
last season (taking his career mark down to 21.6), seemed to be worthy
of a boost. But, as one NBA assistant coach employed by a Western
Conference team put it, "I find that pretty interesting ... almost
comical."

It should be noted that this assistant
spends a nice chunk of his summer traveling the nation to provide skill
work for players on the team he helps coach. So, like many others
fitting his job description, the notion that a retired superstar such as
Olajuwon is required to demonstrate specific maneuvers is more than a
little irritating.

"I mean, we can teach the
drop-step, the jump hook and all of that," the coach
said.

But he did stop short of accusing Olajuwon of a
Dream Shakedown.

"Hey, the important thing is that
he (Stoudemire) is working," the coach said. "If the guy -- the trainer
you're working with -- knows anything about basketball, any work that
you do should be beneficial. If you're working hard, it's going to help
you get better."

It should be noted that Amar'e's
productivity should benefit even more from an upcoming training camp
with coach Mike Woodson, who'll be able to install an offensive system
to take greater advantage of Stoudemire and the skills of teammate
Carmelo Anthony.

After spending recent years in a
Mike D'Antoni system that largely kept the ball in the mitts of the
point guard, the aforementioned Knicks forwards should benefit from
Woodson's tactics, which figure to provide more opportunities near the
cup.

DREAM
SEASON?

While working with Olajuwon was
hailed as a boon to the post play of Suns center Marcin Gortat, the
numbers may not support this opinion.

The Polish
Hammer, who made the trek to Houston in the summer of 2011, did have a
nice season in Phoenix. But the perceived motivation for working with
Hakeem -- becoming a greater threat on the post -- wasn't exactly
realized.

A look at the numbers tells us Gortat was
used in post isolation plays only 13 times last season. Does that mean
coach Alvin Gentry ignored an opportunity to generate offense? Well,
no.

Since Marcin only scored on three of those
possessions and coerced a meager three fouls, going to that well more
often probably would have been a waste of
time.

According to the stat fiends at Synergy Sports,
Gortat's points-per-play on the block was .75, which ranked him 118th
in the league.

It's interesting to note that after
working with Hakeem, Gortat still relied heavily on a lefty hook when
receiving the ball on the post. I watched Olajuwon starting in his early
days at the University of Houston and never witnessed him using his
left hand to shoot on the post.

To be fair, there's
much more to playing on the post than copying another player's
particular go-to move and counter, so using the lefty hook doesn't mean
working with Hakeem provided no benefit. But even for a professional
athlete, that's a pretty steep price tag to check in at
118th.

My wife suggested that anyone hoping to
replicate some of Olajuwon's magic might be better served downloading
some of his game video, watching it over and over and trying to act
accordingly.

Without Steve Nash setting his table,
Gortat may have to produce a skill upgrade of some sort. To his credit,
it's a safe bet to assume he's been working
hard.

SUMMER
SCHOOL

According to the bright minds at
NBA.com, the Suns' overall grade on their summer report card is a
resounding C-plus.

The work of Lance Blanks, Lon
Babby and the gang produced marks of B-minus for the frontcourt, C-plus
for the backcourt, D for defense, C-plus for the bench and a B for
coaching.

We're not sure if these grades -- bestowed
upon readers by Scott Howard-Cooper -- reflect the summer transactions
or simply list where the team stands in these categories now that the
offseason maneuvers have been made.

It should be
noted that NBA.com's David Aldridge lists the Suns in his "Middle 10"
(16th overall) for summer roster changes.


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