The New York Knicks were preparing for a coronation ceremony in Madison Square Garden.
Donnie Walsh had cleaned up the mess that Isiah Thomas made of New York’s roster and had given the franchise a significant amount of cap space — enough space to potentially bring in Lebron James in the summer of 2010. But when it came time for James to make his decision, he decided to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
Instead, the Knicks landed star free agent Amare Stoudemire, the freakishly athletic big-man coming off a stellar ’09-’10 campaign with the Phoenix Suns. Stoudemire averaged 23.1 points and 8.9 rebounds and he was named to the all-star team.
“The Knicks are back,” Stoudemire said. “(I’m) Looking to build something special here.”
New York inked Stoudemire to a five-year, $100 million contract. Reportedly, they were only the franchise willing to dole out that much money to Stoudemire given his history injury problems.
As his run with the Knicks began, though, there was no hint of frailty. In fact, he looked stronger than ever. Stoudemire set a Knicks record with nine straight 30-point performances midway through the season en route to being elected to start the All-Star Game, becoming the first Knick to do since Patrick Ewing.
Stoudemire quickly became the face of a franchise that had finally established itself as a perennial contender after years of languishing away in the basement of the Eastern Conference. Along with Danillo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Raymond Felton, Stoudemire led the Knicks to a respectable 28-26 clip by Feb. 22. They were on pace to make the playoffs.
On the heels of the formation of the virtual super-team in Miami, though, the Knicks felt the necessity to acquire another superstar.
After months of speculation, New York acquired Carmelo Anthony in a three-team trade. They also received Chauncey Billups. The Knicks sent Gallinari, Chandler, Felton and Timofey Mozgov to the Nuggets, along with draft picks.
From the onset, it was clear the Knicks were no longer Stoudemire’s team — they were Anthony’s.
The two struggled to work together due to their similar playing styles, as both like to operate out of the post and attack the rim. The Knicks were swept in the first round of the playoffs.
The next season featured more headaches. The star duo still failed to connect on the court. Stoudemire struggled to even stay on the court as he suffered a medley of injuries. The Lake Wales, Fla., native’s frustrations came to a head when he punched a fire extinguisher following the Knicks’ game 2 loss to the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.
The Knicks were once again swept. The season marked Stoudemire’s poorest statistical output since his rookie season — he averaged just 17.5 ppg and 7.8 rpg.
In the offseason, Stoudemire worked with Hakeem Olajuwon in an effort to develop a formidable post game. But the power forward rarely got the opportunity to showcase his new skills, as he was constantly hampered by injuries throughout the 2013 campaign.
First, he missed the first 30 games of the season with a knee injury. Then, after returning on Jan 1, it was announced on Mar. 9 that he would have a right knee debridement, again forcing him to miss playing time. He returned in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Indiana Pacers, but saw limited playing time.
The Knicks, riddled with injuries and old age, fell to the physical, youthful Pacers in six games. Stoudemire expressed discontent with how he was handled during the series.
“I think just the opportunity of allowing them to understand exactly what my style of play is and what I bring to the table is something that I think I’m going to have to sit down with Coach Woody and express to him,” Stoudemire told ESPNNewYork.com.
The statement offered a poignant example of just how far Stoudemire has fallen in the eyes of the Knicks.
Fewer than three years ago, he was regarded as the exuberant face of an exciting franchise on the rise. Now, Stoudemire is desperate for more minutes and a chance to prove his worth.