Fire extinguishers at Madison Square Garden and the TD Garden Arena can breathe easier. But seriously, not having a “big” who brings the kind of offensive multi-dimensionality that STAT offers could be a detriment to a New York Knicks team that relies heavily on jump shots.
Sure, the Knicks went 17-6 in the regular season without Stoudemire, who had a surgical procedure to clean out debris from his right knee in early March.
But that’s the regular season. Starting Saturday, Knicks shooters like Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith should expect a lane crowded with Celtics defenders, forcing those two mercurial scorers to consistently make tough jumpers.
Expect the Celtics to throw several bodies at Anthony to wear him out. Forwards Jeff Green and Paul Pierce will be his primary defenders. And those isolation plays that Coach Mike Woodson likes to run with Anthony may not be as fruitful in generating open shots for team’s other jump shooters like Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni, who is also expected to miss the opener with a right ankle injury.
Not having Stoudemire on the court makes things easier for Anthony. There are more driving lanes for him to exploit, for example. Yet, STAT’s ability to be a proficient scorer inside will be missed for a team that – aside from Carmelo’s ‘Isos’ and Felton’s pick and roll plays – offers little else offensively.
Having even a limited Stoudemire for 10 to 15 minutes a game as a bench option would have been one more necessary tool for the team’s arsenal: a consistent, interior offensive presence.
Carmelo will have to be superhuman. Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin will have to become sentries in the paint. Smith has to consistently drive to the hoop to draw fouls. And Felton, who has a tendency to run a bit too hot, needs to be a more effective decision maker when the shot clock winds down.
And the 40-year-old Kidd will have to defy time once again.
These are awesome burdens for a team that is limited in the number of ways it can win.
As for Stoudemire, the forgotten face of the franchise, that March surgery was expected to knock him out of action for four to six weeks, a prognosis that provided fans with the elusive hope that the 11-year-veteran would return by the first round of the playoffs.
While the 6-10 forward has not been ruled out officially, it’s highly unlikely that he will make an appearance, Woodson surmised on Thursday.
“I think he’s going to be out,” Woodson said, according to ESPNNewYork.com. “That’s my gut.”
Tacuma R. Roeback is a New York Knicks writer for RantSports.com.
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