Farewell to the captain.
While I covered this a little in my last piece (And I apologize for the wait, America!), one of the Knicks’ biggest looming player transactions before the deadline was not a trade at all, but whether they would be willing to let Amare Stoudemire leave New York, negotiating a figure that would “buy him out of his contract” and allow him to join a contending team before his knees jumped ship from the rest of his body entirely, going out into the world to sow their wild oats and pen their memoirs.
Really, there was no reason not to do it. While Stoudemire has only missed 17 games this season (a miracle for him), he was barely cracking 20 minutes a night, challenging last season for career lows in points and rebounds, and generally just depressing the hell out of Knicks fans. Not only that, but the dude was absolutely in no part of our long term plans, as much as I would’ve loved for him to come back on some kind of Kenyon Martin veteran’s minimum contract next year. Keeping him around instead of giving him one last ditch opportunity to chase a championship? ESPECIALLY with Melo shutting it down for the rest of the year? Not even James Dolan is that cruel. Welll….
What this Means for Dallas
The thing that makes the Amare buyout a little more interesting than your average NBA veteran “coming out of retirement” (aka playing for the Knicks this season) to join a contender is that Stoudemire was going to be asked to play a fairly significant role on whatever team he landed on. This wasn’t your Ray Allen stand behind the 3 point line and wait for the ball (well and make pretty much the biggest shot in Finals history). Both of Amare’s most serious suitors: the Mavericks and the Clippers, have pretty gaping holes behind their frontcourt starters. The Spencer Hawes experiment has been a well rounded failure in LA, while Dallas had to dangle FG% master Brendan Wright to pull in the Rondo trophy fish. Stoudemire should be playing fairly serious minutes come playoff time.
TOO BAD FOR YOU, L.A.!!
Honestly Dallas is the much better landing spot for Amare. He’ll be reuniting with former Knick (and guy that actually cared about winning games) Tyson Chandler as well as first ballot hall of famer Dirk Nowitzki. In Dallas, Stoudemire will get an excellent coach in Rick Carlisle, one of who tailors his system to help aging stars maximize their strengths and hide their weaknesses (DEFENSE!!) Yikes at that one.
Not only that, but Stoudemire’s game is very much tailored to what Dallas is working with right now. While Amare is a well-rounded scorer with a good set of post moves, a decent mid range jumper, and a THUNDEROUS dunk every now and then, he’s a very reluctant passer. Watching him this season I would throw heavy money down that any given pass to Stoudemire would result in a shot, a trip to the free throw line, or a gross turnover. Having him in a fast paced motion offense that requires swinging the ball around the arc to open up 3 point shooters? Hmmm not so much. Having him alongside the league’s truest incarnation of a pass-first PG who loves to set up cutting teammates? Now that could work. Plus Amare’s ability to play the 5 in small lineups will be killer in Dallas where Dirk’s range at the PF position will make this an insane rotation to guard come playoff time. If they do their best to play even below average defense (instead of just HEMORRHAGING points) this could give the Mavs the offensive punch to beat slower halfcourt teams like the Rockets or Grizzlies.
But hemorrhage points they will. Stoudemire wasn’t a particularly good defender to begin with. Putting him next to Dirk and people like Chandler Parsons and Devin Harris? Yikes. If anything, Carlisle will need to lean even harder on Tyson Chandler to shore up the other end of the floor. While that’s not a terrible proposition: Chandler is one of the best defenders in the league and a maestro at rotating to cover his teammates’ miscues, its a risky one. Just ask any Knicks fan about how Chandler looked in that Indiana series. Or that creepy picture of his stick-thin legs that came out the next summer? Really the Mavs are going to need to just shoot their opponents out of the building if they want to advance out of the cutthroat West.
But this isn’t really anything new. Dallas’ defensive woes weren’t going anywhere soon and they were always going to be in trouble if anything happened to Chandler. The Mavs used all of their assets to upgrade at the PG spot, and thinking that someone like Jermaine O’ Neal would be a stronger backup for Tyson, even as he expresses literally zero interest in returning, is silly. Jermaine O’Neal doesn’t care about basketball. But Amare? Amare has the heart of a champion.
What this Means for New York
I’m not going to say anything played out like “End of an Era” or, even worse, “Good Riddance.” Simply put, I’m happy for Stoudemire.
Maybe this is my related to my own failing in being too forgiving of my boys. I haven’t been alive long enough to really count as a long suffering fan. So I find it hard to blame Melo for wanting to get surgery early and shut the book on this nightmare season (2015 reload!!). I don’t blame Shumpert for struggling to find his role in an offense absolutely dominated by a single player. And I absolutely don’t blame Stoudemire for wanting to end this chapter of his life and make one last effort to chase that elusive championship, that would certainly elevate him to a Hall of Fame career.
Its sad to see him go, sure. Even as the Knicks have sucked over the last few seasons, you could always tell Stoudemire was giving it 100%. Watching him come off the bench, grabbing his sports goggles from the scorer’s table, you could feel the whole Garden tensing in excitement. You knew that anything was possible. You thought about that first season, just crushing people in the pick and roll with Felton (lol), that moment when the Knicks were actually good again. That “The Knicks were back”.
So, to one of the most exciting Knicks I have ever watched play, farewell. I wish the best of luck to Amare in Dallas; I’ll be watching come playoffs and pulling for them BIG TIME. I think its safe to say that this may be the one time someone taking a $19 million pay cut feels excited for the future.
We’ll miss you Amare.