Welcome Back Amare
From the last article, we discussed how the season progresses in phases. The NBA season is a constant flow of coming up with new wrinkles for the other team to contend with, then making adjustments to the opponent’s adjustments. Teams are always looking for ways to tweak the offense to take advantage of any match-up that is in their favor. The injury to Amare Stoudemire has been a little known blessing in disguise.
Amare’s absence not only gave some of the supporting cast the time to build up their confidence with playing time in critical crunch time situations. It also paved the way the Knicks would be integrating Amare into the offense under wraps. So rather than opponents having the pre-season and the start of the season to plan how they will defend Amare, they are having to do it on the fly during the season with less time to prepare in between games. On purpose or not this is to the Knicks advantage.
During the start of the season, JR Smith was able to emerge as a viable secondary option behind Carmelo on both ends of the floor. JR has shown not only is he able to control his wild 3 point shooting but able to work in his shot through the offense. He has also shown a commitment to step on the defensive end and allow Carmelo to conserve his energy for the end of the game.
During his return Amare has shown that he is able to work with minimal time while giving maximum effort. He is being efficient with his shot with a FG% north of the Mendoza Line. Being able to come off the bench has helped Amare tremendously. This way he can build his confidence versus other team’s second team players with his efficient shooting and hustle board efforts. Then as the season progresses, he can build towards a bigger role and legitimate second option status during a possible playoff run.
Now comes the tricky part for the Knicks’ coaching staff. They need to make sure that they are integrating Amare, but still keeping the continuity and momentum that they have built during the season. Amare’s patience is also critical to the process. He needs to be willing to slowly build his niche in the offense and at times getting a bulk of his minutes with the second team before the All-Star break. Then afterwards they can begin giving him a bigger role in the offense and require more on the defensive end also. That is why the slower they bring him back the better.
I am intrigued to see how Amare deals with the slow progression of integration into the offense. This can either add to the chemistry or seriously negate some of the great team chemistry that has been built through the course of the season. I see him making all the effort to fit in, but the key will be him keeping any frustration in check if he does not get all of the touches he feels that he deserves.
The Knicks season is a painted picture in process. The base color and strokes have been placed, now they need to adjust the hues and tint to make it look like a true Masterpiece.