It may be time to issue an all points bulletin for the Phoenix Suns All-Star power forward, because he’s nowhere to be found thus far in the Western Conference Finals.
After turning in a mediocre performance in Game 1 with 23 points (the team lead, to be fair) and just three rebounds, Amare Stoudemire disappointed again in Game 2 with 18 points and six rebounds (an improvement, but until I am typing rebounds in digits instead of words, there is work to be done). On top of that, Stoudemire led the Suns (in the bad way) with a -14.
Where has All-Star STAT gone? Where has the beast that turned in the best post-All-Star break performance of any forward in the NBA gone? Where has the dominant big man who was averaging 20.5 points and 9.0 rebounds and sort of playing defense gone?
There is the argument that Stoudemire has been distracted by the off-the-court incident involving his mother’s arrest, but there is also the argument that the Lakers have simply shut him down. STAT just hasn’t been himself. Though Stoudemire said he didn’t regret saying that Lamar Odom had a “lucky” game in Game 1, he might now.
Stoudemire simply isn’t matching up well with the Lakers interior players and is getting beat on the boards. Nine rebounds through two games is a paltry performance. Odom has 30 … off the bench. Stoudemire’s rebounding ineptitude through two games has been crippling to the Suns’ efforts to get their offense going.
To be fair, it’s not just Stoudemire that has underperformed. No Sun has grabbed double-digit boards in either game and the Lakers have won the rebound battle both times. So this isn’t by any means a “blame Amare for the 2-0 deficit” analysis. It appears to be a case of being outmatched physically. Pau Gasol, Odom and even the ailing Andrew Bynum have outdone the Suns with a polished, powerful inside game.
But when you have a center who hasn’t played in a game since late March and a backup center who hangs around the perimeter and doesn’t play physical (Frye is a whole other story — won’t get into it here), the burden falls on the All-Star forward to lead the rebounding attack.
Stoudemire didn’t back up his talk in Game 2, and I imagine there won’t be much between now and Game 3 in Phoenix. This is a prime instance where actions will speak (much, much) louder than words. If the Suns want to climb out of this 2-0 hole (and you can bet the farm that they do), it will take a team effort, but one of the key components to that team effort is Stoudemire. The improvement necessary to the entire team starts there.