Amar’e Stoudemire, Man on a Mission

Mar 9, 2012; Milwaukee, WI, USA; New York Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire (1) dunks during the second quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Amar’e Stoudemire played some of the best basketball of his career before the All-Star break in 2010-2011, his first season as a New York Knick  averaging 26.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks a game in the 53 games prior to the All-Star game. Stoudemire helped rejuvenate a fan base starving for a superstar talent and embraced being the face of the franchise rewarding Knicks faithful by playing at close to an MVP level.

Even after the Carmelo Anthony blockbuster trade, Amar’e still posted strong numbers averaging 23.5 points and 7.3 rebounds a game in the 25 games after the Anthony acquisition.

It is safe to say however that year 2 in New York was one to forget for Amar’e Stoudemire. Between the death of his brother, dealing with injuries, struggling to form chemistry with Carmelo who is also an alpha personality on the court, twitter beefs gone wrong and losing fights with fire extinguishers, Amar’e disappointed Knicks fans everywhere this past season.

While Amar’e posted a respectable stat line of 17.5 points and 7.8 rebounds a game, it is still far below his standards and not what New York got excited about when they signed him to a near 100 million dollar contract in the summer of 2010. Nagging injuries seemed to rob STAT of his game-changing explosiveness and forced him to rely more on his jumper, which can help explain his lowest field goal percentage over a full season (48.3 percent) since his 2003-2004 year.

Normally you would think a player turning 30 in November whose greatest asset is his athleticism is trending downhill and has seen his best days as a NBA player. And in the scenario of Amar’e, you may be correct to assume that. He is at times allergic to playing defense, has never averaged 10 rebounds a game for a season despite his size and athletic prowess and is not the most durable individual in the league.

On the other hand, there are other reasons to feel that the 2011-2012 season was an abberation for STAT. Amar’e recently got engaged to long time girlfriend Alexis Welch, the mother of his three children and this may have a calming affect on his game. If you don’t believe me, ask Lebron James how stability in his relationship with his fiancee helped his life on and off the court.

Luckily for Amar’e, he has proven the ability to bounce back from injuries in the past. He was able to regain his explosiveness after having microfracture knee surgery during the 2005-2006 season while a member of the Phoenix Suns and his injuries that slowed him in 2011-2012 were nowhere near as serious. An off-season of rest and minimal distractions may work wonders for STAT.

Perhaps the most encouraging reason for Amar’e to bounce back in a big way in 2013 however is the work he has put in with Hakeem Olajuwon to expand his low post game. Ever since Kobe Bryant visited the Hall of Famer down in Houston in the summer of 2009, this has become a rite of passage for other NBA superstars to seek Olajuwon’s tutelage. Dwight Howard and Lebron James are among other prominent NBA players who have followed suit. Amar’e for all of his skills offensively is not particularly polished in the low post. When playing under Mike D’Antoni in Phoenix and New York, Amar’e thrived off pick and roll and didn’t necessarily need a post game. Coach Mike Woodson inspired Amar’e to visit Hakeem as he expects Amar’e to operate more on the block in the upcoming season and I’d be lying if I said he doesn’t look good in the post from this clip, my only word of advice to STAT  is to wear longer shorts in the future.

Amar’e has talked a big game of late, proclaiming anything less than a championship is a bust while at the Las Vegas Summer League and this season is his chance to back it up on the biggest stage, I don’t expect the Knicks to be in the championship conversation but I do believe in Amar’e that he can come back and have a big year. The days of STAT destroying Anthony Tolliver and Adonal Foyle may be behind him but with a refined post game, this may be the perfect recipe to help Amar’e extend his career and get him back to performing at an All-Star level. The greats often find a way to adapt their games once their athleticism leaves them behind, this could be Amar’e Stoudemire’s chance to do the same.