The New York Knicks have been playing exceptionally well so far this season with a 12-4 record—good for first place in the Atlantic division—yet they have been without one of their most dynamic players in power forward Amar’e Stoudemire. Stoudemire has yet to play a game for the Knicks in the regular season after suffering a ruptured cyst in his left knee during the preseason that required him to have arthroscopic surgery. The 30-year old Stoudemire has been going through the rehabilitation process and according to the New York Post; he hopes to be back on the court when the Knicks face the Lakers on Christmas day.
Throughout his career the six-time All-Star Stoudemire is averaging 21.6 points along with 8.7 rebounds per game. But last year was one of the worst seasons in the young power forward’s career when he averaged 17.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per contest. Stoudemire struggled to find chemistry with the Knicks’ newly acquired star, Carmelo Anthony, and many people began to wonder if the two would be able to play together. This skepticism has recently led to a trade rumor that would send Stoudemire to the Lakers in exchange for their PF, Pau Gasol.
For now Stoudemire remains in New York and the focus for many fans is how will he fit in to the Knicks rotation when he comes back from his injury. The Knicks have been playing well without him this season and forcing Stoudemire back in to the starting lineup may negatively alter the team’s chemistry. There has been some speculation that Stoudemire may come off the bench when he returns to the court in the sixth man role. When asked about the situation, Mike Woodson said according to the New York Post, “I’m going to address that when we get to that point. Right now, I’m just taking it a day at a time and work the guys we have in uniform.”
The Knicks will be one of the deepest teams in the NBA when Stoudemire is able to return and the team could benefit from him coming off the bench. Stoudemire will most likely need to work on his conditioning upon his return and there is no need to rush him along. Coming off the bench will help improve his conditioning along with the chemistry between him and his teammates. Not to mention adding another legitimate scoring threat to the Knicks’ bench.
If the Knicks opt to throw Stoudemire in the starting lineup right away then they would risk losing the chemistry that the team has developed thus far. But allowing Stoudemire to start may help him progress quicker than if he were to come off the bench. It would also help increase his marketability in trading situations with other teams. Stoudemire signed a 5-year deal worth about $100 million with the Knicks in 2010 and if the Knicks want to trade him then he will have to prove that he is still a viable scoring option.
“I’m just taking it a day at a time and work the guys we have in uniform.” -- Mike Woodson, Knicks coach.
Whether Stoudemire comes off the bench or is a starter is up to head coach Mike Woodson. But the Knicks must be pleased that he is preparing to return in the near future.
Chris Hunt is a sports writer who resides in Charlotte, N.C.