From main attraction to third wheel, from headliner to opening act, from having the starring role to making a cameo appearance, this is Amar’e Stoudemire’s world now – or something like it. The former centerpiece of the New York Knicks franchise now plays a bit part in his team’s postseason descent.
With that run expected to end soon, the 6’11” power forward is at a career crossroads. The Knicks are obligated to pay him two more years at $21.7 and $23.4 million, so his wallet will be mighty healthy. His body, not so much. Multiple knee surgeries have robbed him of his athleticism, especially of his vertical game: the youngins refer to this as “hops.” He is nowhere near the finisher he used to be, which played a major part in his earlier success.
His conundrum begs the question: where does he go from here?
Every dollar of Amar’e’s contract is guaranteed and the Knicks cannot wipe it off the books using the amnesty provision. They already used it on Chauncey Billups‘ contract. So the team will be stuck with Amar’e’s contract. And it is highly unlikely that it can improve through free agency or via a sign and trade with another team. The Knicks cap number is too high.
There is a slight chance the team could lure coveted free-agent point guard Chris Paul, but a lot would need to happen. J.R. Smith would have to turn down his player option and sign elsewhere, which he could do if another team is willing to overpay for his services.
Role players Chris Copeland, Pablo Prigioni and James White would not be retained. And the Knicks, in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers, would likely part with Raymond Felton, Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert (the Knicks would still have to kick in a first rounder or two) to retain Paul.
Paul is believed to be the only player in the NBA capable of facilitating an offense where Stoudemire and leading scorer Carmelo Anthony can successfully co-exist. If the coveted Paul can join the Knicks, perhaps it can revive Stoudemire’s career and hopes of a deep postseason run.
At this point, the possibility of Paul donning the orange and blue seems remote. Better rephrase that: it won’t happen.
But what good is a pipe dream if it doesn’t help to alleviate the current reality?
The current Amar’e lumbers up the court and barely has any lift. Against the younger, bigger and quicker Indiana Pacers’ frontcourt, he seems relatively slower. Contrast this Amar’e with the springy, quick twitch athlete from six years ago and feelings of numbing disappointment kick in.
Even after an initial knee injury in 2005, Stoudemire seemed to recapture his old form. When the Knicks signed him to a five-year contract at nearly $100 million in 2010, it was after a serious knee and eye injuries. He still had himself a phenomenal year, averaging 25 points and eight rebounds.
The same year, the Knicks posted a winning record of 42-40; it was a significant step for a franchise that hadn’t had a winning campaign in nine previous seasons. But that was then.
With the centerpiece Anthony locked in for two more years (the second year being a player option), Stoudemire will never be the main player he was when the Knicks signed him.
But don’t cry for Amar’e. He’s still an effective player.
Though people may continue to cast aspersions on his signing, they should remember that without Stoudemire, there would be no Anthony.
And without both, the Knicks would’ve probably remained what it had always been in the early aughts: a lame attraction.
Tacuma R. Roeback is a New York Knicks writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TacumaRoe, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google+