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As Amare Stoudemire slowly walked back to the Knicks’ bench last night after fouling out of what would turn out to be the final game of New York’s season, I thought to myself: “Please let this be Amare’s last game as a Knick.” That’s not because I think Stoudemire deserves to be dealt for his underwhelming performance. Rather, I think he deserves much better than being relegated to a second or third banana to Carmelo Anthony. We have seen a still talented Stoudemire go to waste over this past season. Now that New York brass has had a chance to see this Amare/Carmelo experiment in the post-season and how poorly the two played together, I’d imagine they realize the same thing: Amare needs to be traded this summer.
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The only way they can talk themselves into keeping this apathetic duo together is if they decide to wait until they can put a true point guard at the helm of the offense. But even then, Amare’s production would likely improve but then Melo’s effectiveness, which, at this time, is subpar, would take a dip. Bottom line: Carmelo Anthony needs to play with spot-up shooters and big men that work the baseline and don’t need the ball and Amare needs to play in a fast paced offense with a point guard capable of running multiple pick-and-rolls on a given possession. There is no solution to this problem other than breaking them up. And, by the way, the Knicks are pressed up against the cap and won’t be able to afford a point guard that could even hope to be the answer – sorry, Linsanity.
Their games are too similar, their favorite spots on the floor are too close. Melo’s pace directly contradicts the style that suits Amare best. When used properly, these two players are equally productive, but their partnership in New York has been far from an equal one. Stoudemire, the Knicks’ original franchise centerpiece, the player that they gave a $100 million deal to, is the one that got the short end of the stick. You are free to draw your own conclusions as to why Amare punched a fire extinguisher after game two but I firmly believe it had something to do with Anthony’s 26-to-9 advantage in shot attempts between the two. Anthony ended up with 124 shots in this series (just a tick under 25 shots a game) while Stoudemire had 36 shots (nine a game).
Trading Amare will be no easy task, of course. Even when you factor in the negative impact that Carmelo has had on him, Stoudemire isn’t worth the contract he’s got. That and his always troubling knees will knock almost every team out of the running for Amare. But there are still a number of teams with pick-and-roll heavy attacks that Stoudemire could be a legit #1 option for, albeit a less explosive one from the Amare we remember from Phoenix. New Orleans, Orlando, Milwaukee and Toronto all have some cap space and trade pieces that could net them Amare and all of those teams could plug Stoudemire into an effective pick-and-roll attack. Finding a trade partner willing to take on Amare’s deal will be difficult but I think teams are smart enough to realize that he can still flourish if he gets away from Carmelo.
The highest profile trade rumor that has been floated around would send Amare and Tyson Chandler to Orlando for Dwight Howard this off-season. Carmelo and Howard would be far from a perfect pair themselves but it would provide changes of scenery for two players that desperately need them and such a deal would likely free up cap space for the Knicks to go after a point guard (one could assume that if that deal were made before free agency began, Deron Williams would have interest in joining the Knicks). There are question marks about this deal, for sure, but it makes some sense.
The silent issue waiting to turn into a big story if this Carmelo and Amare issue isn’t resolved is the effect it will have on the Knicks’ true franchise player. Tyson Chandler is unquestionably the best player on the team and the reigning defensive player of the year is not going to stand idly by while Amare and Anthony sink the team and force him to overexert himself defensively. Chandler had a very defeated look in him last night, one that he never displayed when he was with the Mavs. He can probably sense that the Knicks don’t have a championship environment around them right now and I doubt he’d hesitate to ask for a trade if the Knicks have another fruitless season next year.
Aside from getting a franchise point guard, which, again, is impossible unless the Knicks can dump some salary, some will point to Phil Jackson as the savior for the Knicks team. Phil loves himself a challenge, but I don’t think this is the kind of situation that he would pull himself out of retirement for.
You can play with all of the possibilities in the world but at the end of the day, the Knicks’ impatient tendencies led them to trading away half of their team for a player that negated all of Amare’s abilities and has made them a worse basketball team. Ironically, it’s that same impatient mindset that could save the Knicks now. New York breaking up the Anthony/Stouedmire pairing is more pressing than any other issue in the NBA, even bigger than the Magic doing something about the Dwight/SVG situation. The Knicks need to make their move quickly and they need to move forward with a much better blueprint for success than throwing talented players on the floor with no regard for how well they fit together.