By Max Marcilla
This past summer, Knicks forward/center Amar’e Stoudemire spent a portion of his offseason working out with NBA Hall of Fame center Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon. Olajuwon has had a reputation of working out with current NBA players and developing their game, elevating them up to the next level. Since 2006, the first year “The Dream” has worked with NBA players, he has worked with current stars like Stoudemire, teammate Carmelo Anthony, reigning MVP winner LeBron James, and 5-time champion Kobe Bryant.
Last summer, Olajuwon helped Stoudemire with his post-game and offensive presence, as it showed. However, STAT wasn’t able to stay healthy long enough to use this newly improved attribute to the Knicks advantage. Stoudemire was a spark off the bench in the regular season, averaging just over 14 PPG on 58% shooting in limited minutes. However, due to a pair of knee surgeries, Amar’e only played 29 regular season games.
In a highly anticipated playoff return, Stoudemire struggled. Whether that had to do with having just come off of another procedure or not is unknown, but what is known is that Stoudemire has a lot to fix in the offseason, as he will return to Olajuwon this summer.
The Knicks only have two true big-men aside from STAT on the roster, Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin. The Knicks were exploited by the Indiana Pacers and their big line-up. The problem was that Tyson Chandler is a good defender (when healthy), but cannot score in the post. Kenyon Martin is a good defender, can occasionally spark the offense, but doesn’t have the height to keep up with NBA centers like the Pacers’ Roy Hibbert. If either of those players get into foul trouble, or are just having a poor game, the Knicks will be lacking in at least one major category: defense, scoring or on the glass.
This is where STAT can help tremendously. Stoudemire can score in the post and on the jump shot, as he has shown when he is healthy. But he struggled all year rebounding and playing defense against opposing big men. If Stoudemire can work with Olajuwon on his low-post defense, he can regain the minutes he lost in the post-season. He definitely has shown (barring injury) that he can get back to All-Star form offensively, but in order to be a “superstar” he needs to gain skill defensively.
The other option that could benefit the Knicks is having Tyson Chandler go to “The Dream” to work on his offense. This rumor has been floating around since last summer, and has been talked about more after a poor series against Indiana. He is a more complete player right now then Stoudemire, as he has the height, defensive skills, and the rebounding skills to compete with or outplay every NBA center. His only problem is he cannot score. Essentially, while having him on the court helps the Knicks defense, it limits the Knicks to a maximum of 4 scoring options. When some players are struggling, like Steve Novak or J.R. Smith (two players who showed inconsistency this year), or the Knicks have players who don’t want to shoot the ball (like guards Pablo Prigioni and Jason Kidd), the Knicks will find it nearly impossible to score points.
Because of a lofty contract for Stoudemire, the Knicks will find it basically impossible to deal the veteran, which means there are a few ways next year could turn out for STAT and the Knicks. Will he be a dynamic player on both sides of the court? Will he be great offensively but continue other struggles leaving him on the bench? Or, will this year be like this past year: an injury filled year that keeps Stoudemire on the bench, wearing a suit and holding a clipboard? Only time will tell.