How difficult of a decision can it be to put a six-time NBA All Star on the floor to play for your team? With an opponent stocked with serviceable big men down low in the Indiana Pacers, it is certainly understandable and well within reason for Mike Woodson to feel that inserting A’mare Stoudemire into the New York Knicks lineup is the right move to make.
Whether it is the right decision or not to play a guy who hasn’t seen time on the court in two months is not the question, but rather how Woodson handles the Stoudemire situation that can very well make or break both the Knicks season and Woodson’s coaching reputation.
We have seen so far in Woodson’s tenure with New York that there is no amount of shots J.R. Smith can miss for him to be taken out of the game. Smith, who has shot a combined 7-for-30 in Games 1 and 2 thus far, can be blind folded and missing open looks left and right, but will yet see extended minutes on the floor.
How will Woodson react if Stoudemire plays the same way? We saw earlier in the playoffs that Woody decided to roll with Chris Copeland’s hot regular season play and reward him with a start in Game 1 versus the Boston Celtics. Copeland, perhaps jittered by the bright lights of the NBA Postseason, did close to nothing, and Woodson adjusted by barely playing Cope the rest of the way in New York’s first round series.
When broached with a potential poor performance from Stoudemire, a nine-year NBA veteran and six-time All-Star, how will Woodson respond? Will he ride out his star player much like he has Smith or will Woody sit him down on the bench like he did with the rookie Copeland?
With an offensive weapon like A’mare Stoudemire, it is tough to argue against putting him out on the floor and seeing what he can do, particularly against a front court loaded squad like the Pacers. Maybe Stoudemire can get into a groove and take some of the offensive load off of Carmelo Anthony. Perhaps he can even get Roy Hibbert and David West into some foul trouble. However, if Stoudemire fails to deliver on both ends of the floor and proves a detriment to his own squad, how will the New York coach react?
Woody’s answer to this question can very well determine not just the outcome of this series, but also his reputation as being the right coach for the Knicks job.