It'd be difficult to have a worse season than Amar'e Stoudemire did for the Knicks last year, at least one while you're making nearly $20 million for the privilege. He put up the worst full season numbers of his career, and the stats were backed up by watching Amar'e on the court. He never meshed with Carmelo Anthony, his defense was even worse than it usually is and, worst of all, he was so slow off the dribble it was as if someone put Stickum on the bottom of his shoes. Not a pleasant experience at all, for anyone.
Still, other than the fire extinguisher incident — which, all told, seems rather minor in the grand Knicks scheme of things, particularly considering this nutty offseason — Stoudemire wasn't terribly unpopular with the fanbase. The frustration scorn was usually reserved for J.R. Smith, or even Carmelo Anthony. Stoudemire was the first "star" to come here, after all, and that has earned him a certain leeway with the fanbase — so far, anyway. (His trying personal and family life last year was an issue as well.) But the Knicks are a team that continues to pretend that it has three superstars they're building around, even though Stoudemire wasn't close to a superstar last season. They will pretend again this year because they desperately need him to be one.
Amar'e was in town yesterday for a signing of his children's book — STAT: Home Court, which looks charming — and after signing a bunch of books for kids, he answered some questions from some adults. The general consensus — the hopeful consensus, really — is that the week-plus Amar'e spent at Hakeem Olajuwon's big man camp is going to turn Amar'e's career around. Amar'e, while cautioning that he's hardly going to become some exclusive post player, played it up.
"There are so many moves that I picked up from Hakeem. I mean, just developing my post game has been phenomenal for me. When I came out of high school, I was just thrown the ball and they said, 'Do what you do best.' I never got a chance to develop my game, as far as a post player. So now, with working with Hakeem, it's going to be a great advantage for me."
It is at this point that we note that every year, some center/power forward spends a week or so with Hakeem in the offseason and everyone is breathless about how they're going to show up at training camp sporting the Dream Shake. Let's see how many we can find with a quick Google search: Hasheem Thabeet. Emeka Okafor. DeSagana Diop. D.J. Mbenga. Ike Diogu. Luol Deng. JaVale McGee. Marcin Gortat. Robin Lopez. We are sure there are more: That was just the first page of Google.
Suffice it to say, none of those people have turned into Hakeem Olajuwon yet. But hey, maybe this is Amar'e's year.