Amar’e Stoudemire is accomplishing a difficult task. The Knicks big man has accepted a role off the bench while making the best decision to prolong his career.
Tossing ego to the side like a sweaty towel, Stoudemire, the coaches, and the training staff have agreed to cap his minutes at 30 per game for the remainder of the season. Stoudemire is entering a new stage of his basketball life without the explosive natural athleticism at his disposal for the full 48 minutes of an NBA game. The new-look STAT can still put an opponent on a poster at a moment’s notice but he is now focused on an efficient post game, hitting the offensive glass, and improving his defensive awareness.
“We’re utilizing him and trying to go to him and put him in a position to be successful on that block and he is making good moves, getting fouled some,” head coach Mike Woodson explained. “The other night it was nice, he got a couple offensive putbacks on misses that were really needed at that particular time. And, he’s getting better defensively, so we just have to stay the course with him and help him as much as we can.”
At the ripe age of 30, Stoudemire has found a path to success as he continues to recover from a knee procedure just prior to the start of the season. In 23 games this year, he is averaging 12 less minutes per outing compared to his career average. With that said, Stoudemire is fresh off a season-high 22-point performance on 9-for-10 shooting from the floor in a victory over the 76ers on Sunday night. The 22 points were accumulated in just 22 minutes…off the bench.
“Whatever it takes to win,” Stoudemire preached after a practice session in Toronto. “I know what type of player I am and what type of player I can become. I’m steadily trying to improve every game, every practice. It’s not my job to figure out the lineups. My job is to go out there and play as hard as I can and try to get us the win.”
Stoudemire is not only accepting the new role but capitalizing on the chance to show the younger generation a selfless way to help your team at the highest level.
“I hope young players really understand what it truly takes to win and to be a leader. Attitude reflects leadership and that’s what it’s all about,” Stoudemire stated.
Over his 10-year career, Stoudemire has dealt with adversity on and off the floor. Among knee and back injuries, he suffered a partially torn iris in 2009 and underwent eye surgery to repair the retina. Last season, Stoudemire’s older brother was killed in a car accident.
This year, the Florida native seems to be at peace on a professional and personal level. Stoudemire celebrated a marriage to his longtime time girlfriend in December and is now starting to flourish in the Knicks run to the postseason.
Stoudemire’s time on the court is not exclusive to the second unit group. Woodson will place him next to Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler on the frontline for stints throughout the game. Over his last 10 games, Stoudemire is averaging 15 points and 5.8 boards in 23 minutes. Featuring a dominant hook shot, Stoudemire is hitting 58.6 percent of his attempts during that 10-game span.
“The game has just evolved this year but the outside game is still there,” Stoudemire acknowledged. “There is a lot more that I can do that I haven’t shown. There are pick-and-rolls, pick-and-pops, there are post-ups, there’s the jump shot.”
Stoudemire worked with the Jedi Master of post moves, Hakeem Olajuwon this offseason. He continues to incorporate the new skill set while picking his spots to find scoring opportunities next to Anthony and company.
“Giving us that low-post presence with that second unit, somebody that we can go to,” Anthony described Stoudemire’s impact. “Even when he is in there with the first group, giving us another option to go down to in the post, so he’s been doing very well at that.”
Stoudemire is one of the key ingredients to New York’s pursuit of a championship and it’s clear he is willing, welcoming, and accepting any role needed to achieve that goal.