Can the New York Knicks Still Consider Amar'e Stoudemire a Superstar?

By A.J. Speier
Debby Wong-USA Today Sports

If the New York Knicks are going to be considered a championship contender they must figure out whether Amar’e Stoudemire is still a superstar-caliber player or not.

As most people know, Stoudemire has had a history of knee injuries, dating back to his time with the Phoenix Suns. He’s already undergone micro-fracture surgery on both of his knees before turning 30 years old.

However, when Stoudemire agreed to five-year $99.7 million contract with the Knicks, he enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career in his first year, averaging 25.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and two blocks. In fact, he set a franchise record with nine straight 30-point games and then another franchise record shooting 50-percent or better from the field in nine straight games.

Stoudemire’s performance earned him being named a starter to the Eastern Conference All-Star Team, the first Knicks player to start in the game since Patrick Ewing. He responded with an Eastern-Conference team high 29 points, which tied him with Lebron James.

After the All-Star break, the Knicks acquired Carmelo Anthony from the Denver Nuggets in a blockbuster deal that sent his pick-and-roll point guard Raymond Felton to the Nuggets in return for Chauncey Billups, who’s known more for his ability to make 3-pointers in clutch moments.

The Knicks made the post season for the first time since 2004, but Stoudemire’s back began to give him problems in the playoffs and it resulted in the Knicks getting swept by the Boston Celtics 4-0 in the first round.

During the NBA lockout, Stoudemire spent his time rehabbing his back by doing various workouts. While the workouts helped Stoudemire’s posture and increased his height from 6’10’’ to 6’11’’, he also gained 20 pounds, weighing in at 260 pounds.

When the lockout ended, the Knicks decided to amnesty Billups to bring in Tyson Chandler to help Stoudemire on the defensive end, but that’s when all of the problems started to occur. The Knicks went through Toney Douglas, Iman Shumpert, Mike Bibby, Jeremy Lin and Baron Davis at point guard.

The combination of poor point guard performance and the added weight caused Stoudemire to struggle with his explosiveness and efficiency and it led him to start a weight loss program where he lost 10 pounds in 10 days.

As a result, Stoudemire averaged 18 points per game, shooting 56-percent in the month of March.

Following his productive March, Stoudemire suffered a bulging disk in his back, forcing him to sit. He returned with just a few games remaining in the regular season and ended up averaging just 17.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and a block for the whole season.

In the postseason’s first round series against the Miami Heat, Stoudemire punched a fire extinguisher box following a loss and had to miss Game 3 due to the self-inflicted cut to his left hand that required stitches.

This summer Stoudemire worked with Hakeem Olajuwon to work on post moves, so he could use them instead of relying on just a jumper in isolation situations.

However, Stoudemire’s progress ended when he re-injured his surgically repaired left knee by rupturing a popliteal cyst behind the knee in an exhibition game. The surgery is expected to keep him out until at least late December.

Since Stoudemire’s surgery, the Knicks have are off to an Eastern Conference-best 18-5 record with Anthony moving to power forward and a different approach by attempting more 3-pointers.

Stoudemire’s health will always be a concern for the rest of his career, so it’s fair to wonder if he can still be considered a superstar.

Follow A.J. Speier on Twitter @Ajbisons for articles, news, and all things NBA

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