After the gruesome details about half of Amar'e Stoudemire's hand supposedly "hanging off" — which makes us think that American Airlines Arena needs to maybe ease up on the glass thickness of its fire extinguisher cases — it's becoming clear that Amar'e is not going to return by the end of the Knicks–Heat series. Which, not to be a downer here, almost certainly means that he is out for the rest of the season. Uh ... are we sure this is such a bad thing?
We mean this in both the short-term and the long-term. In the short-term, the terrific Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated made a compelling case that the Knicks will actually be better off without Amar'e against the Heat.
Stoudemire just hasn’t helped the Knicks, mostly because the Anthony/Stoudemire combination has been a disaster. The Knicks outscored opponents by about 3.2 points per game, but with Stoudemire on the floor, opponents beat them by about three points per 100 possessions. That number got even worse — about four per game — when Stoudemire and Anthony shared the court, per NBA.com’s stats database. The Knicks have suffered from something of a catch 22 with this pairing: They cannot play the Anthony/Stoudemire duo without Tyson Chandler because it would be defensive suicide. But playing Chandler with the two stars has sabotaged the offense because Chandler and Stoudemire play roughly the same role in any functioning offense — pick-and-roll screener — and are not skilled enough perimeter shooters or off-ball cutters to work a secondary role.
Lowe cautions, though, that this configuration won't work as well against the Heat as it did at the end of the season because the Heat play small ball so well and because Iman Shumpert isn't around to help defensively on the perimeter anymore. (STUPID, CEASELESS INJURIES.) But still, Josh Harrellson, the guy most likely to see his minutes increase in the wake of Amar'e's injury, is someone we've been wanting to see get more minutes of late anyway; at the very least, the guy sticks on defense, is willing to knock people around (Country Strong!), and can even pop a jumper every once in a while. He obviously doesn't provide anything close to what Amar'e provides offensively ... but Amar'e hasn't exactly been consistent in that realm, and he's been so bad on defense that the trade-off might not be worth it. (For what it's worth: Amar'e said at practice today that he thinks he has a chance to play Game 4.)
The real question — and, sadly, probably the only question that matters — is what this means for the future. Obviously, Amar'e is going to be here for a long time; no one is going to take that (uninsured) contract, so the Knicks are stuck with him — for better or worse — for the next three years. But maybe this outpouring of Amar'e Backlash might be good for him ... ? By the time this settles, Amar'e may not have the superstar cachet that has brought him along this far, and — shudder to think? — he might be in a position where he accepts the role with the second unit that the Knicks actually need him to accept. It has been more than a year now, and Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e still haven't figured out how to play together. It's because they're both isolation guys, of course, and you can only isolate one at a time. (Being isolation and all.) So having Amar'e give scoring punch off the bench, really, is ideal.
Wait, we're paying this guy $65 million to come off the bench? Stop thinking that way; that sort of thinking is why Amar'e is so hesitant to ever come off the bench. That's sunk cost at this point: You have to figure out how best to maximize the value you have. That very well might be having Amar'e with the second unit next year. Maybe this outcry is the humbling moment Amar'e needs to recognize his role more. Maybe this might ultimately help.
Or maybe Phil Jackson will come and install the triangle and everything will suddenly be perfect.
Forgive us: There are at least two games left in the season, and we needn't look forward to 2012-13 already. It's just that it feels like there are less than two. It sorta feels like there's less than one. It makes us so mad, we could go punch something.