In what has already been a tumultuous season for the New York Knicks, Amar’e Stoudemire added another layer of uncertainty to an already impaired ball club.
Moments after the Knicks suffered a 104-94 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at American Airlines Arena on Monday, Stoudemire punched a fire-extinguisher case mounted in an arena corridor, lacerating his left hand in the process.
Stoudemire’s reckless act is another crushing blow to an already depleted Knicks roster. New York was dealt the loss of their best on-ball defender, rookie guard Iman Shumpert, who, like Chicago’s Derrick Rose, succumbed to a torn anterior cruciate ligament, in a Game 1 defeat to the Heat, sidelining him for the remainder of the postseason. Now, New York, perhaps, will have to compete in Game 3 –or the rest of the series– without their starting power forward, which would make STAT the third Knicks starter to be shelved, joining Shumpert and Jeremy Lin. Two hours after the game, Amar’e took to twitter to express his frustration.
If LeBron James and Dwyane Wade weren’t daunting enough for Knicks’ head coach Mike Woodson, a roster that appears to be crumbling before him is strained further by the $100 million-dollar-man’s juvenile act. The Knicks already have a difficult task ahead of them with starters Tyson Chandler battling the flu and Baron Davis’s assorted ailments. Logic tells us now that with Stoudemire potentially out, things will only get worse for New York.
James & Wade are a combined 27-for-36 for 75 percent shooting in the paint through the first two games. STAT & Melo are 12-for-22 for 55 percent. The Heat shot 52 percent over all, and had 28 assists on 38 field goals. The Knicks, whose point total tied their lowest playoff output in Game 1 with a woeful 67 points, actually showed up for Game 2 and were competitive for the most part, but still fell short in the end. They trail the heavily favored Heat, 2-0 in the series and are 0-5 against Miami this season. But contrary to popular belief, Stoudemire’s actions didn’t exactly give Miami an automatic pass to the next round. Granted, Amar’e’s injury could be a damaging to New York’s playoff hopes, but we should not forget New York’s record without STAT in the lineup this season.
Between the personal tragedy of his brother passing away and the physical toll his body has taken this season, Stoudemire has been a shell of his former self. He posted his lowest player efficiency rating (PER) since his rookie season and rarely, if ever, prevented opponents from scoring. In fact, the Knicks have been considerably worse with Amar’e on the floor this season. Having him sidelined could be received as a blessing in disguise.
New York posted an impressive 14-5 record in the 19 games Stoudemire was sidelined in the regular season due to a bulging disk. In that stretch, Carmelo Anthony played his most efficient basketball, averaging 31.7 points per game on better than 50 percent shooting. Even Steve Novak benefited from Stoudemire absence, with his ability to stretch the floor and ignite from behind the arc. In fact, Novak led the league in 3-point shooting at 47.2 percent this season. With Novak in the game the Knicks are much tougher to guard. The Knicks outscored opponents on average by 8.4 points per 48 minutes this season when Anthony played without Stoudemire.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, with Stoudemire on the floor this season the Knicks were losing on average by 1.3 points ever 48 minutes. With Amar’e on the bench, the Knicks were winning on average by 7.4 points every 48 minutes. That’s nearly a 10-point swing on a full-game level. Without Stoudemire, the Knicks transformed from a lottery-bound team to a playoff contender.
Still, the fact remains the Knicks are hurting now, and the Heat are close to a clean bill of health, with their role players playing better than ever. While it looks dire for the Knicks –Miami dealt New York its first two-game losing streak in the Woodson era and an NBA-tying12th straight loss in the postseason– removing Stoudemire from the equation doesn’t make it so. If anything, keeping STAT off the court might give the Knicks a better shot to win games– as they’ve done all season without him.