Moke Hamilton, NBA Analyst
He went from standing tall and talented to not standing at all, but unlike his demeanor, Amar’e Stoudemire has quietly played an integral role in the Knicks piecing together the longest win streak of their season.
And despite undergoing multiple knee surgeries and seeing both his place in the rotation and the level at which he is capable of contributing being doubted and diminished, Stoudemire has remained upbeat and has reemerged as a force for the Knicks.
Better late than never, he’d say.
On the season, the team is now 5-1 with Stoudemire as a starter, and there were certainly times when it seemed that he was incapable of contributing at such a high level. But like a true professional, he continued to work hard, listened to the training staff, and toiled tirelessly.
And as the Knicks desperately try to rescue their season, he has reemerged as a major contributor and hasn’t quit, even when injuries derailed his career and he seemingly had reason to.
“Never doubt, never doubt,” Stoudemire told TKB after the Knicks beat the Milwaukee Bucks Saturday afternoon. In 27 minutes, Stoudemire scored 15 points and grabbed six rebounds en route to helping the Knicks pull out a 115-94 win—their sixth straight.
With those 15 points, Stoudemire has now scored in double-figures in seven straight games—his longest such streak since he underwent knee debridement surgery back in March 2013.
“Truly, I have complete faith and I work extremely hard,” Stoudemire said. “I know once you put the work in that the results will eventually happen, so that’s pretty much what we’re seeing now.”
After the win, Stoudemire walked into a jovial and upbeat Knick locker room and loudly greeted Earl Clark and Jeremy Tyler. Reciting Jay-Z lyrics, he asked, rhetorically, “Can I Live?”
At least for right now, he certainly is.
“We’re seeing a manifestation of the work that I put in before,” Stoudemire told TKB. Now, the question is whether he can sustain it. If he can, the question then becomes whether the eigth-seed Hawks will continue to flounder and help the Knicks catch them.
Though it may not be wholly relevant at this point, the proof is in the pudding. The Knicks have succeeded with Stoudemire being given a bigger role. As a post-operator, Stoudemire has shown astronomical growth in the areas of balance, patience and counter-attacks. Though lacking in size and girth against some of the league’s bigger power forwards, he has utilized his nimbleness and effectively learned how to use his body to create space and opportunities for himself.
We have witnessed physically overmatched players over the years—most notably Charles Barkley (height) and Kevin Garnett (girth)—overcome those obstacles to become brilliant post players. Lately, we have seen Kevin Durant begin to do the same.
Stoudemire may not warrant mention amongst either of those three, but, at this point, it is obvious that, though he is no Hakeem Olajuwon, he is one of the Nigerian Nightmare’s pupils.
Could the season be different if he had been reinserted into the lineup sooner?
It is a fair question, but not one that Stoudemire is losing sleep over.
“You never know,” he told TKB with a shrug when asked. “It’s hard to tell.
“Coach Woodson was being cautious about changing up the chemistry, but again, like I said before, better late than never so now we’re playing well and we just gotta keep going.”
And keep going, they will.
“We’re around Amar’e everyday, all day, so we know the work that he puts in, we know how hard he works, we know how frustrated he gets when things are not going his way so we had his back this whole time,” Anthony said.
“We kinda had this feeling that he was gonna get out of it but playing at this level, at a very high level, you can’t ask for nothing better than that.”
With the Eastern Conference leading Indiana Pacers set to visit Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night and the Knicks using a six-game win streak to desperately cling to their minuscule playoff hopes, Stoudemire, on Saturday, rightfully referred to himself as one of his team’s leaders.
“Everyone gets involved now,” Stoudemire said when asked what has changed for the Knicks over the course of their streak.
“[Carmelo, Tyson and I] are kinda the three anchors on the team, the three captains of the team,” he said.
“We set the tone and everyone else follows and so far, everyone has been following suit very well and everyone’s been contributing. So far, even the guys that have been coming off the bench have played well and if we continue that type of play, we should be successful.”
Regardless of how things end up for these Knicks this season, Stoudemire has played a major role in the late resurgence. At the very least, it is inspiring. At the very most, he may be helping to save the season.
Either way, so long as health remains on his side, when it is all said and done, having rediscovered his productivity and altering and developing his offensive repertoire, he can, once again, attempt to revert to his former self.
Once again, he can be a productive piece and stand before New York City.
Once again, standing tall and talented.
Moke Hamilton is the NBA Analyst for SNY.tv and, along with Lead Writer Harris Decker, hosts the Knicks Blog Podcast each and every Wednesday. Follow him on Twitter: @MokeHamilton