Sheridan: Stoudemire brutal and ambivalent in his return

NEW YORK — If you are a Knicks fan and your highs and lows are determined by how your team fares, you are not going to feel better after reading this column. But read it you must.

Amare Stoudemire made an inglorious return to the court Tuesday night on the second day of the new year, missing every shot he took in a first half in which he looked old, slow and lost. It was brutal.

The weird thing was, the fans gave him a standing ovation when he stepped onto the court as the fourth reserve off the bench (Ninth Man?), they seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief when he left the game with 10 minutes remaining, clearly out of gas, and they watched a spirited comeback fall short because Mike Woodson made the mistake of having Pablo Prigioni (instead of Ronnie Brewer) on the court to defend Damian Lillard on the key possession of the game, a step back  3-pointer by Lillard with 35 seconds left that gave Portland a six-point lead.

Even weirder, and perhaps even disturbing, was the way Stoudemire reacted to the loss. He was nonchalant. He was borderline giddy over the greeting he received from the fans, he talked over and over about butterflies and how the game seemed to be played at 100 mph.

If the loss bothered him, it was impossible to tell.

Maybe it’s just me, but if I am a fan of a team that is battling the Miami Heat (and the Atlanta Hawks!) for first place in the Eastern Conference, I don’t want to see one ounce of satisfaction out of a team that has lost the defensive intensity it played with early in the season.

I don’t want to take a moral victory out of the fact that Stoudemire is finally back on the court, and I don’t want to have blind faith in the idea that he and Carmelo Anthony will eventually find a way to play together in a complementary way.

I’d prefer to see a little outrage after dropping yet another game the Knicks should have won. But rage was conspicuously absent in the locker room afterward.

Maybe it was because of the feedback Stoudemire received from his veteran teammates — the “older men” in the locker room, as Stoudemire called them.

“I was nervous. my heart was beating fast, I had butterflies in my stomach and felt I was a rookie all over again,” Stoudemire said. “My veteran guys said it takes about 5 to 10 games to get back to where you were before. So if I take those guys advice, that sounds about right. But hopefully it’ll be sooner than that.

The Knicks are back in action Thursday night against the San Antonio Spurs, and by then it will have been nearly three weeks since they put together back-to-back wins. This loss gave them just their second two-game losing streak of the season, but it dropped them another game behind the Heat in the all-important loss column — the one part of the NBA standings they should be keeping an eye on each and every day.

Let’s face it — every team is going to have off nights like the one the Knicks had on Tuesday. Heck, the Miami Heat have a night like this once or twice a week, though they often find ways to win those games down the stretch.

With the Knicks, it’s a whole different equation.

The Knicks are the team that should be playing with a fire in their belly, a team that should be striving to show that November was not the same type of “fools’ gold” that Chris Paul said the Clippers just experienced by going undefeated through the month of December.

There are no throwaway games when you are built specifically to defeat the Heat behind your abundance of experienced veteran big men, and when the highest-paid guy in that bunch doesn’t even seem the least bit upset by what was, by his standards, a horrid performance, you begin to wonder …

Have the Knicks peaked already?

Has the 3-point shooting slump that so many predicted finally come to fruition? Is the defensive success inextricably tied to having Raymond Felton on the court (in large part to keep Jason Kidd and Progioni off it when an opposing playmaker needs to be shut down?) 

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  1. Bob says

    Chris:

    A harsh commentary considering this was STAT’s first game of the year. You don’t look at results the first game back from an injury, conditioning, jumping ability and endurance are the criteria which should be considered when evaluating a player’s first game. Chris, you are way off base in your criticism.

  2. J Sandiford says

    This wasn’t the Knicks team that came out with no energy against the Kings. This was a team that came out uncertain after missing their three current starters (Chandler, Kidd and Anthony) during their practice sessions, being out one starter (Felton), and trying to work a hopeful starter (Stoudemire) back into the lineup.

    Yes, you do hope this Knicks team would have a little fire, but at the same time you have to have an understanding that when half the team is trying to figure it out on the court with no practice that a night like this might happen.

  3. Matt says

    This is your lead article? I always think of this site, along with Zach Lowe’s work, to be a solid basketball resource. This sounds like an angry dude with a vendetta giving a bad restaurant review. Sheridan, dont worry about Stat’s demeanor. The guy had a year from hell last season, hoped to start fresh this year and was set off track again by injury. I dont think Amare himself can put into words the emotions that were flowing through him once he stepped on the Garden floor. Dont you think your malice should be directed towards maybe the NY back court who look old and afraid to shoot? Amare isnt why the Knicks had a December lull. The missed 3′s (NOVAK IS MIA), porous guard defense and limited guard offensive output is why. Smarten up and write a knowledgeable piece about the game, not that your salty that Stat isn’t. Guy just accomplished a goal, im sure that is one of many still to come. You sound like a real hater Sheridan, an uninformed and unhuman one at that. Go have a tough run of luck and see how your able to answer questions to reporters after a momentous day. Oh thats right, no one would ask you anyway. On to Zach Lowe for an actual thought provoking NBA analysis.

  4. RMK says

    This is an abolutely stupid article.

    Amar’e is making his return after missing 3 months so of of course he’s going to look out of sync. The team has been struggling from the defensive end for the last 2-3 weeks so you can’t blame that on Amar’e either. As far as critiquing his attitude post-game, it’s fair but the guy has been dogged since last May when he hit that fire extinguisher and all he’s been reading and hearing about is how the team is better without him and how his return is going to sabotage the team…after all that to get a minute of love from an otherwise demanding crowd, Im sure it really did bring him to tears. Now if he’s still like this a week from now then I’ll be mad but to make a stink about it now makes me think Chris has some vendetta.

    Lastly, the NBA regular season is a joke and we all know it. It’s all about surviving and getting a strong seed into the playoffs…that’s where the real season starts.

  5. mafra says

    3 days off. New Year’s Day. I’ll forgive the lack of intensity b/c of the holidays. MIA just lost to DET. Anyway, last night had little to do with Amar’e. Kidd-Priggs-Novak scored 2 points combines, 6 assists and shot 0-10 from downtown. NYK started Kurt Thomas & Ronnie Brewer, and this duo combined for 5 points. With all that, Melo had a chance to tie it with 15 seconds left.

  6. Eddie M. says

    Yes the lack of defensive intensity is discouraging but is it surprising when the options at PG have been an injured Felton and two old PGs like Kidd and Prigioni? Nevermind Stat, he’s rusty and he’s not familiar with the defensive rotations. However the perimeter defense is by far the worst problem the Knicks have to date. Opposing PGs do what they want to Kidd and Pablo and it forces the help to react and with a couple of passes you have open looks. Knicks will have to adjust while Felton and Shumpert recover. That’s no solace for many Knicks fans but it’s the truth. You cannot expect 40 year olds to keep up with the 20 year olds. Brace for a tough January (winter is coming!).

  7. Joe says

    I have more of a problem with the Knicks fans cheering on Amare like an unsung hero and completely forgetting the fact that he sabatoged 2 consecutive playoff appearances . . . one year doing trick dunks in warmups versus the C’s then the next year when he had a boxing fight with a fire extinguisher versus the Heat.

    However, I am not going to get on his case for looking rusty when he’s had no preseason and not played in a quite some time. However, sadly, I’m already weary after 20 minutes of play at how many times he switched defenders on screens to create mismatches. It’s infuriating and he’s obviously not learned a thing watching from the sidelines about how to react defensively. Forget learning to score in the post with Hakeem . . . focus on rebounding and defense like Cyde mentioned during the broacast, please.

    • Matt says

      Hey Joe, this knick team your currently enjoying in ’12-’13, thats because of #1. Without STAT’s signature, there is no Melo or Tyson. How quickly people forget. Im sure you were chanting MVP two seasons ago also. Mustve been your first as a knicks fan sen

  8. CeeBoog says

    Chris is right. As a Knick fan, I was disturbed at their lack of intensity in the first half. You cannot keep playing from behind and afterwards they all looked nonchalant about the loss. What did they practice over the last two days before they played Portland? Now is not the time to build complacency. The Sixers are playing better ball, the Hawks have remained solid and consistent and you have to expect the Celtics to come around sooner or later.

    If the Knicks aren’t careful they could dig a deep hole for themselves.

  9. Po says

    “I know it has been 9 months since he played, but I expected more production on the court and less ambivalence in the locker room afterward.”

    More production on the court? Have you ever come back from an injury? It takes about 3 minutes and you’re completely gassed. His minutes need to be managed very carefully.

    The ambivalence is likely due to the fact that they have 50 games to figure it out.

  10. says

    Slow night at the desk Chris? It’s early January, plenty of time to get Amare right, and now is the time to do it. His post-surgery ineffectiveness is expected and accepted, hence the “ambivalence” after the game. I’d be more alarmed if he didn’t keep a positive attitude, unlike yourself. Knicks will be fine, and though I do agree, jury is still out on Amare and Melo co-existing, only a healthy Amare can help us make that final determination. He needs time. As a lifelong Knicks fan, I’m with the vets on this one. Let’s give it a few weeks. Until then, write about the lazy, ineffective Deron Williams if you’d like. Thanks.

  11. says

    Finishing second or even third in the conference wouldn’t be the end of the world for the Knicks. This team is built to beat the Heat in a 7 game series. Heat were the second seed last year look what happen.

    • says

      Knicks can win the East if they win 75 pct of their games each month. They can’t afford losses liike this and just accept it. Sorry to be hard on them, but No. 1 in East is within reach and they should be striving for it.

      • says

        That isn’t the goal. If it was don’t you think Melo would have played in some of those games he missed? The goal is championship. Winning the conference would be nice but that obviously isn’t the main goal.

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