One of the main reasons the New York Knicks have been successful this season is their vast improvement on defense. They have allowed 97.5 points per game, which ranks near the middle of the pack in the NBA. Much of their improvement has come with Amar’e Stoudemire out nursing a knee injury. The Knicks have cooled off a bit as of late, but many wonder if Stoudemire’s return will help or hinder their growth.
Stoudemire has always been considered an above-average player offensively, but defense has never been been his strong suit. Accoring to Amar’e, that’s because no one before Mike Woodson ever worked with him on it. Considering Stoudemire played almost his entire career under Mike D’Antoni with the Phoenix Suns and in New York, I guess it would be fair to view that as a shot at his former coach.
“I think having a defensive coach for the first time in my career is going to help,” Stoudemire said Wednesday according to the NY Daily News. “I’ve never been taught defense in my whole career. So to now have a coach who actually teaches defense and teaches strategies and knows positioning and posture and how to guard different plays, it’s going to be helpful.”
The Knicks’ defense began improving when they acquired Tyson Chandler, so it’s more likely that the improvement happened in spite of Stoudemire — not because of him. About a month ago, Stoudemire said he would be willing to accept a bench role when he finished recovering from knee surgery. He returned on New Year’s Day and scored six points off the bench. It appears he will stay there for at least the immediate future.
“I’m taking it as a challenge,” Stoudemire said. “I’m going to accept the challenge. And I’m going to try to improve as a player.”
The Knicks are currently 21-10 and in first place in the Atlantic Division, but they have scored more than 100 points only twice in their last eight games. Stoudemire’s return may not help the team defensively, but they aren’t exactly lighting it up on offense. While many fans would have been happy trading him when New York began the season looking like the NBA’s best team, they might welcome the boost he provides on offense down the stretch.
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