The notion that the Knicks are better with Josh Harrelson than Amare Stoudemire is utter nonsense. Still, Harrelson’s performance and impact on his teammates, especially Toney Douglas and Landry Fields, cannot be ignored. So far through four games, Amare Stoudemire, who seems to have bought into the notion that this is Carmelo’s team offensively, is not close to being the all-star bound dynamo he turned himself into when he first arrived to New York. Amare made it clear that he was taking over the team and hauling us to victories on his big shoulders, accurate mid-range jumper and aggressive inside play. Now with Chandler in the middle and Amare mostly playing the 4-spot, the Amare we grew to know and love has disappeared.
The most common excuse stated for his and other’s offensive woes is ball movement. The principle reason cited is poor point guard play by combo guards. It is suggested that we need a decisionmaker with the ball who will assure that Stoudemire gets the ball in the most complimentary positions. It has been stated that we need a guard that will hit Stoudemire in stride, take advantage of the universally poor pick and roll defenses in the NBA and dilute the triple and double teams on Stat by hitting jumpers and driving the lanes without mercy. Others suggest that both Stat and Melo mst swing the ball more efficiently and help their teammates get the open shots. Even when Stat was doing very well, he was always susceptible to turning over the ball when he stubbornly would try to create his own shot off the dribble from 8 feet beyond the basket. That effort usually stops all player movement and turns everyone else into spectators until the ball is stripped or bounces off his leg.
Another reason for Stoudemire’s woes that is gaining traction is that Stat has lost his advantage by playing the 4 instead of the 5. As a center, Studly was matched up closer to the basket against slower and less agile defenders goes the theory. With the ball closer to the basket his options are greater whether he is posting up or facing the basket. Stats offensive efficiency seems to increase as he is closer to the basket where his first step and power moves are unstoppable. But then, what do you do with Tyson Chandler? With years of NBA history behind us, are we to believe that Stoudemire and Chandler cannot co-exist in or around the block?
As indicated by Harrelson’s performance, handling Stoudemire may be the key to the play of the supporting cast. We now know that Fields can still play this game and excel on hustle plays. But how do we give him the room to make the right decisions without bumbling through playing with the Knicks stars? I think Harrelson’s performance suggests that it is possible to help everyone perform better with the right rotations and situations. Harrelson lets us know that Stat, Chandler and Melo can excel together, but they shouldn’t be expected to figure it out on their own.
Can you help them? Can you help coach D’Atoni maximize the offensive potential of his stars?