Prior to yesterday’s 113-84 blowout victory over Utah, the Knicks announced that oft-injured forward Amar’e Stoudemire will be sidelined for the next 6-8 weeks with right knee problems. Before the season started, Stoudemire underwent a left knee debridement, dead tissue that needs to be removed, which caused him to miss the first two months of the season. Now, the same issue has arisen in his right knee and again he must be operated on.
Having overcome a plethora of injuries throughout his 11 year career, this is nothing new for Stoudemire. He’s worked hard during his tenure with the Knicks to overcome this kind of adversity and he will work hard again to get back in time to help contribute to the team’s playoff cause. Nonetheless, this injury is truly a tragic one for Stoudemire. The Knicks starting the year 18-5 with Carmelo Anthony at power forward made it near impossible for Stoudemire to return in January as a starter. The consumate team player, Stoudemire accepted his role as a 23 minute a game role player off the bench. A move of this ilk is not an easy one for an NBA superstar, of which Stoudemire certainly has been throughout his career. Look no further than the Pau Gasol situation with the Lakers this season as an example of how superstars usually react to a bench demotion. Not only did Stoudemire handle this move to the bench with professionalism and class, but he was having a bounce-back season. Behind a more refined offensive game, thanks to some summer tutelage from Hakeem Olajuwon, Stoudemire was scoring as efficiently as ever.
Adding insult to injury, or injury to injury in this circumstance, Carmelo Anthony has yet to return to the floor with a knee problem of his own. The Knicks insist he is day-to-day, however the fan base becomes more and more restless the more games Anthony misses, given the past absence of transparency from the organization and its training staff.
Without Stoudemire, but with Anthony, the Knicks can still be contenders. Without Anthony, but with Stoudemire, the Knicks can still play with anyone in the league, see Thursday’s loss to Oklahoma City. However, without either player, the team will be dead in the water. The sky isn’t falling yet, but if Anthony’s knee injury proves to be serious, it very well could be. New York needs Anthony and they need him to be the unselfish superstar we saw earlier this season. If Anthony is truly healthy come playoff time, the Knicks should be good to go even without Stoudemire in the fold.
While Stoudemire’s injury is a buzzkill to all parties involved, I believe there are silver linings to be had. The first that comes to mind is improved defense. As Stoudemire has been removed from the equation, Marcus Camby (returning from injury) and Kenyon Martin (signed to take Ronnie Brewer’s roster spot) have been added. Camby, playing limited minutes, has looked useful since his return, while Martin has been very good on both ends. Assuming Stoudemire’s minutes will be divided primarily between those two players, the Knicks should be better defensively. The Anthony-Stoudemire 4/5 combination, an often used lineup, will be no more. With those two players sharing the court, New York is giving up 110.6 points per 100 possessions, which is worse than Charlotte’s league worst 109.3 points allowed per 100 possessions. Assuming Camby stays healthy and Martin can give the Knicks solid and consistent defensive effort, there’s no reason why the Knicks shouldn’t be better on that end of the floor.
Stoudemire’s absence also clears up Mike Woodson to keep Carmelo Anthony at power forward during crunch time. The monkey in the room had been whether or not Stoudemire would be finishing games. He hadn’t been, and rumors of his discontent were starting to swirl. In the Oklahoma City game on Thursday, we saw Mike Woodson keep Tyson Chandler sidelined down the stretch with Stoudemire anchoring a small ball lineup at center. Woodson won’t have to worry about keeping Chandler sidelined late at games in order to keep Stoudemire on the floor. He’ll be able to go small and keep the reigning DPOY on the floor at the same time.
So the world isn’t ending for these Knicks, but they need Carmelo Anthony and they need him to be healthy. In significant sample size, see late last season and the first two months this season, the Knicks have proven they can win with Anthony at power forward and without Stoudemire. However, if Anthony is also seriously injured then the Knicks have problems. The situation should clear itself up in the coming week. A healthy Anthony combined with solid additions in Camby and Martin should put the Knicks in a good place heading into the final months of the regular season.
Follow Taylor on Twitter @tarmosino