Hamilton: Stoudemire rejoining Knicks after best start since ’73

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Over the course of his 11 seasons in the NBA, Stoudemire’s game and his development has been most impacted by Mike D’Antoni. Though Stoudemire also played for Frank Johnson, Terry Porter and Alvin Gentry in Phoenix, D’Antoni is the pro coach he’s known most. Before working with NBA Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon this past summer, Stoudemire said he hadn’t developed a dependable repertoire of post moves because no coach ever demanded that of him.

It may be a cop-out, but it sure is believable, especially knowing D’Antoni’s preference for floor spacing and open driving lanes.

Regardless, what we do know about Woodson is that he has challenged these Knicks, from Anthony all the way to Steve Novak.

And Stoudemire will be no different.

As great as the Knicks have been thus far, they still seem to rely a bit much on the 3-pointers falling and that’s mainly because coach Woodson doesn’t want Anthony—an undersized power forward—playing with his back to the basket for most of any game. That would mitigate the speed advantage he has over the bigger forwards attempting to guard him.

A dominant post player — one who can suck defenders in and give shooters such as Novak and Jason Kidd space to get their looks off cleanly — is what the Knicks really need to seriously put a scare in the Miami Heat. Those two 20-point victories will be ancient history and will mean nothing if these teams met in May or June.

Anthony has done an effective job, but he can’t play all 48 minutes. And there is a noticeable difference in games Rasheed Wallace doesn’t play.

Aside from Anthony, Wallace is the only Knick that requires defensive awareness when posting on the lower box.

If Stoudemire can change that, is it hello NBA Finals for these Knicks?

Woodson has made it fairly clear that Stoudemire will be worked back into the rotation, saying he’ll have to earn his minutes.

For Stoudemire, that will be a difficult adjustment.

To his credit, Stoudemire has only ever been consumed by bringing winning basketball back to New York City. He deftfully shouldered the responsibility of being the team’s franchise player before Anthony arrived, then didn’t complain when his touches went away once ‘Melo entered — and took over — the stage.

Now, after shedding the extra poundage that contributed to his back woes last season, he’s seen his Knicks team forge a new identity. They’ve become a slightly better defensive version of the 2010-11 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks.

Anthony is Dirk Nowitzki and Kidd and Tyson Chandler are playing themselves. Rasheed Wallace is playing the role of Brendan Haywood, Novak is Peja Stojakovic and Ronnie Brewer is DeShawn Stevenson.

But a Stoudemire that can draw double teams in the post, protect the rim and rebound the basketball? That’s a luxury that those Mavericks didn’t have.

Make no mistake about it, Stoudemire isn’t going to waltz back into the rotation and have Woodson change the identity of his team in order to suit the power forward. It’s up to Stoudemire to get in where he fits in and do his best to find his niche on the very good team that the Knicks have become without him.

But as a player who has always cared about nothing more than winning, there should be zero doubt that he will do all he can to ensure that he only complements the collective talents of the top team in the Eastern Conference.

Quite simply: there may be an “I” in Stoudemire, but there’s no “I” in Amar’e. Team comes first with him.

If Stoudemire returns and fills the few gaps in the Knicks’ offensive attack while not handicapping them on defense, they’ll be even better.

It’s been almost 40 years since the Knicks last won an NBA title. And after going 19-6 through the first 25 games, finally, some positive history is on the team’s side. Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice, but history does have a propensity to repeat itself.

Moke Hamilton is a Senior NBA Columnist for SheridanHoops, covering the New York Knicks. Follow him on Twitter: @MokeHamilton

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