I feel bad for Amare Stoudemire.
Today he was rightly lambasted for being on the wrong end of a fight with a fire extinguisher, as The Wall Stree Journal so colorfully illustrates.
The resulting laceration of his palm likely ends his season two or three games early and puts the Knicks one more player down in a hopeless series against the mighty Heat.
It was a ludicrous reaction, but I feel bad for him because of the reason he presumably picked the fight with the fire extinguisher in the first place: This not only is no longer “his” team but he’s not even 1B on the billing.
Amare always wanted to be “The Man” on a team. That’s why he fled Phoenix for Gothan (although the guaranteed $100 million didn’t exactly hurt either), and for just about four months he was exactly that.
Before Carmelo arrived Amare was the centerpiece of one of the league’s glamour franchise in the media capital of the world. He was literally bringing New York basketball back from a decrepit decade, averaging 26.1 points and 8.6 rebounds along the way during his marvelous 2010-11 first half.
Then the Melo trade went down and STAT has steadily mattered less and less. Along the way a back issue has flared up and he has seemed to lose much of the explosiveness that made him a star in Phoenix.
As Neil Paine points out on ESPN.com today:
“New York was merely an average team (at best) when Stoudemire suited up this season, but without him they’ve played like a plus-7.5 team per 100 possessions. By comparison, the 2012 Heat have only been a plus-6.7 team after adjusting for opponent quality — meaning the Knicks go from being 6.7 pts/100 worse than Miami with Stoudemire in the lineup to 0.9 pts/100 better than Miami without him.”
ESPN.com’s Israel Gutierrez did not mince words today in writing that the Knicks should have used their amnesty clause on Amare when they had the chance this summer. Instead they amnestied Chauncey Billups to make room for Tyson Chandler, which now means they are stuck with a Melo-STAT-Chandler core for the next three seasons unless they can find a team crazy enough to swap its own horrid contract for Stoudemire’s.
“But if you’re going to build around Anthony, you take advantage of who he is. You don’t pair him with a score-first power forward whose athleticism and effort seem to magically leave him when he’s not getting touches offensively.
The Knicks could’ve even built around Stoudemire, kept Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Anthony Randolph and Timofey Mozgov, and even that team would’ve made more sense than this one (and the rumors in New York were that Dolan brokered that deal against the advice of Walsh, and that’s why Walsh left this past offseason).
Instead, the Knicks get a bloody hand and an apologetic tweet from a player who’s supposed to be a stabilizing force.”
This is not what Amare signed up for. He did not leave Phoenix and the comfort ofhand feeding him baskets to take 16 shots in a combined 73 minutes in the first two games of a playoff series.
Some of that has to do with the erosion of athleticism that not even the Suns could have predicted would happen this early to the 29-year-old Stoudemire, but also this just isn’t a good fit for him and now both Amare and the Knicks are all but stuck with each other (although STAT should not be too disappointed about collecting $65 million the next three years, including $23.4 mil in 2014-15).
I fully stand by my previous stance that the Suns are fully vindicated for not matching the max deal New York offered, but at the same time they have now spent two years in which Nash, Gentry and the Suns’ brass have lamented not rostering a go-to guy, a player who can get you a clutch bucket in crunch time and the kind of stud who can put up 20 in his sleep.
In other words, Amare Stoudemire, at least before this season hit, and not surprisingly the Suns have failed to make the playoffs either of these two STAT-less years.
It’s fair to say the Suns have been worse off without Amare, and after that brief honeymoon in the Big Apple Amare has been worse off without the Suns.
With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that the Knicks panicked by offering Amare the max when they struck out with all the other max free agents during the infamous Summer of 2010. They had to have something to show for all the cap space they cleared and the effort they made to do so, and Stoudemire was more than happy to take their money.
But what would have happened if the Knicks signed LeBron and/or Wade? Or if they just decided to wait until 2011 (Carmelo) or 2012 (Dwight/Deron/CP3 at the time) to make their big move? It doesn’t take a basketball genius to figure out that Amare and Melo aren’t a championship fit. Why acquire STAT if they ultimately wanted Melo and why give up so much for Melo once they had Stoudemire?
If the Knicks had passed on Amare, what other team would have offered Stoudemire the max? I can’t think of one, and that must have been what the Suns were counting on with their very reasonable offer that looks brilliant in hindsight.
Since they may or may not have been offered packages headlined by J.J. Hickson and Mario Chalmers at the 2010 deadline for STAT, what kind of team would commit max money and years to the uninsurable power forward?
In that case he almost would have had no choice but to return to Phoenix on Sarver’s terms, and thus Suns fans would never have gotten acquainted with, or (the real mistakes of that offseason).
Perhaps Stoudemire still would have broken down this year with the warlocks and it would have been a losing proposition anyway, but I would have much preferred that scenario to the actual result.
ESPN Rumors speculated on potential STAT landing spots if the Knicks were to try to jettison him (which I don’t see as being possible unless they get a Gilbert Arenas bad contract back), and of course they mentioned Phoenix. The Suns could package Childress, Warrick and Frye for STAT, which would undo all their mid-level mistakes of 2010 for one much worse contract while costing them over $20 million over the life of the deals.
If the Suns didn’t want those years of Amare at this price two years ago when they could only predict these health issues would sprout up, there’s no chance they want him now. And how does that package put New York any closer to championship contention?
Amare is certainly learning that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side as he must face three more years of watching Melo dominate the ball as he continues the transformation from franchise saver to franchise albatross, but as smart as the Suns look for not matching Amare’s deal they have still yet to find a star to replace him.