The Amar’e Stoudemire Conundrum

New York Knicks fans, as well as NBA fans altogether, have been shell-shocked at how putrid the Knicks have played this season.

However, Knicks fans have been down this alley before. Sure, they experienced an eventful ‘90’s era, with a total of two trips to the NBA Finals and an impressive 13 straight playoff appearances under superstar Patrick Ewing. But what ensued immediately after was basically a decade of futility, an amalgamation of Isiah Thomas-Eddy Curry-Stephon Marbury madness.

Then along came a savior who changed Knicks basketball for the immediate future. He decided to take what seemed to be a perpetually losing Knicks squad and put it on his back. He reunited with his former head coach, whose fast-tempo offense allowed him to play at his maximum potential. He basically walked blindfolded into a tornado and declared, “This is a new era!”

Amar’e Stoudemire’s glory days are long gone; his knees have been unreliable, his minutes are down, and his explosiveness has now relegated to mere flashes of the old Stoudemire. His contract of $99.7 million for five years has really only been worth the first three seasons, with a myriad of injuries that have slowed him down significantly.

Yet the excitement that he brought to the city of New York, after it had been subjected to futility for almost ten years, cannot be forgotten. Stoudemire’s play had the Garden excited on a nightly basis, with the fans chanting “M-V-P” during his every trip to the free-throw line. The entire team was actually really fun to follow and watch because it felt like a true team. Everybody’s game meshed perfectly, no ego’s were clashing, and the chemistry seemed perfect.

Unfortunately, it’s all in the past, with the Knicks’ current struggles bringing daydreamers back to reality. Phil Jackson demolished the team over the last few weeks, which removed any semblance of talent required to compete in games. Obviously, the goal for Jackson is the future; he sees the bad today as the bright tomorrow. Gaining the maximum cap space possible is the ultimate goal for Jack, which he has done pretty masterfully, truth be told.

In the end, however, Jackson has an enormous decision to make. It won’t be an easy one, but the future of this Knicks squad revolves around Carmelo Anthony and whomever will join him this offseason. Therefore, as much as he is adored by Knicks fans as the man who changed the face of New York basketball for the better, Amar’e Stoudemire should not be re-signed.

It seems rather cruel to simply part ways with the player who chose on his own will to join a Knicks organization that hadn’t made the playoffs in seven seasons and immediately changed the culture from losing being acceptable to ‘championship or bust’. After all, without Stoudemire coming to New York, the Knicks would probably still be irrelevant and Carmelo Anthony would probably not have had any urge to ‘come home’.

But this is the Phil Jackson era, and for it to become a smooth transition, the entire team needs to be revamped. Simply put: keep Anthony, and get rid of everybody else. That includes Andrea Bargnani, that includes Jose Calderon, and that certainly includes Amar’e Stoudemire.

From a production standpoint, it’s understandable why it would seem difficult to just let Stoudemire walk away during free agency. His offensive abilities may have dwindled, but Stoudemire has been a spark plug coming off the bench as the Knicks’ only post-presence. With 12.7 points per game, which is the second-highest scoring output on the Knicks this season, Stoudemire brings instant offense into the equation whenever the team is in a scoring drought.

Granted, the Knicks are always in a scoring drought, but he’s also valuable as rebounder. Stoudemire is grabbing 7.2 rebounds per game this season, which leads the Knicks and is also a very solid for a player averaging only 25.8 minutes per game.

If Phil Jackson could, he would trade Stoudemire to any team in a heartbeat. The production value is evident, although on a limited basis, and the energy and passion for the game has never left him. Reports have surfaced that Jackson has been exploring his options with Stoudemire, with the Philadelphia 76ers as a potential destination for the Florida native. It is also worth mentioning that the trade deadline is a little over a month away, so anything is possible.

The memories that Stoudemire brought to Knicks fans should be treasured, from the vicious dunks to being voted an All-Star to, although as hard as it is to think about, the three-point buzzer-beater that could have been against the Boston Celtics. He revived Knicks basketball, and that cannot be emphasized enough. But all good things must come to an end, and so shall the years that will be forever known as the Stoudemire era.

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