Fact: Amar'e Stoudemire had the worst statistical season since his rookie campaign1 in the shortened season of 2011-2012.
Fact: Including this season, ''STAT'' has $65 million+ remaining on his contract over the next three seasons.
Fact: The Knicks front office rashly used their Amnesty exemption on Chauncy Billups, leaving themselves no hedge against Amar'e's decline.
Fact: Amar'e played just 47 games this season due to a nagging back injuries.
And finally, fact: Amar'e took 122 jump shots last season and shot with an eFG% of just 32.5 percent, and had a difficult time creating his own shot (more than usual) off the dribble.
Facts are facts. Amar'e isn't the player he was when the Knicks splurged to lock him up in the summer of 2010, and now they are stuck with a roster whose pieces don't fit in a division whose teams are on the cusp of reloading for another deep playoff run.
Amar'e's has turned into even more of a jump shooter than he was in Phoenix, only he doesn't have Steve Nash (as of now) dishing him the rock off the pick-and-roll. His 2011-12 PER of 17.7 was the lowest of his career since his rookie campaign, which ranked him 16th among power forwards who averaged 30+ minutes per game (only Antawn Jamison, Luis Scola, and Brandon Bass ranked lower). His points per game, blocks per game, free throw attempts, and TS percentage were also among the worst of his career. He played the least amount of minutes since 2008 and had a Win Share of just 4.1. All this from guy getting paid to produce like a mega-star.
Amar’e‘s contract was the fourth most lucrative in the entire NBA. Therefore aside from Rashard Lewis's exorbitant expiring contract only Kobe Bryant, and Dirk Nowitzki (both of whom have at least one NBA title and MVP trophy sitting on their mantle back home) were compensated more.
It was widely speculated that Donnie Walsh, then the Knicks general manager, was pressured to sign Stoudemire in an effort to help make it more palatable for LeBron to end up in Madison Square Garden rather than Cleveland or Miami. At the time, then-Suns GM Steve Kerr had a chance to match the 5yr /$99.7m offer from New York, yet said that without a hedge (team option) for a player who had two microfracture surgeries, it wouldn't prudent to the long-term financially security for the Suns.
The problem isn't Stoudemire's declining skills or the albatross of his massive contract around the neck of the Knicks — it's both.
The problem isn't Stoudemire's declining skills or the albatross of his massive contract around the neck of the Knicks — it's both. Combined with the fact that the economic landscape of the NBA is about to change due to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which in 2013 will cost the Knicks anywhere from $1.50-3.25 for every dollar they are over the proposed water mark for the Luxury tax. Between Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony, and Stoudemire, the Knicks will have roughly $58.1m (the total salary allotted for the cap in 2013) tied up in three players, leaving them little or no flexibility to dip into the free agency when players like Brandon Jennings, Jrue Holliday, Steph Curry, Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague, Kevin Martin, Darren Collison, CHRIS PAUL (who just turned down a 3yr-$60m extension from the Clippers), Monte Ellis, Martel Webster, Eric Maynor, or Tyreke Evans are either restricted or unrestricted free agents1. So Knicks fans better get used to their front office trying to woo the likes of Ray Allen, Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Andre Miller, or even Goran Dracic this year with the likes of the mid-level exemption or the veteran minimum. Good luck with that Glen Grunwald.
The seemingly unpopular truth is that the Knicks are paying a premium on player who's past his apex and doesn't pair well with the New York's best player — Carmelo Anthony. Melo and STAT fit together on the court as well as Justin Bieber and Charlie Sheen would sharing a cup of coffee. New York needs a drive-and-kick guard, a table setter, or a Kris Humphries-type who doesn't need the ball yet is a volume rebounder (career 18.1 REB%) and would require a much friendlier contract.2
So what, then, are the Knicks’ options?
The Brooklyn Path
Moving Amar'e the night of the draft to any number of teams who still hold their Amnesty card would have been the ideal scenerio. Brooklyn would be the most logical of scenarios for a few reasons. Billy King and company need a headliner with whom to open the Barclay's Center, and it could entice Deron Williams to actually stay put. The Nets have plenty of cap space; including options their payroll sits at just $31.4m (with Gerald Wallace currently not on the books).
Brooklyn doesn't have much in the way of assets, yet multiple future first round picks, Anthony Morrow, and perhaps Amon Johnson (with New York getting a massive trade exemption) might be a possible move. Otherwise let's face it — Deron ain't staying in the BK. So for the Nets it's either go for gold, or gut the roster and build from the ground up. STAT gets to stay in New York (kinda) and could be the alpha in the frontcourt. Besides, unlike in with the Knicks, the pieces actually fit.
The Laker option
If you believe the report that Jerry Buss wants to rebuild around Andrew Bynum (ohh boy) then a Gasol-for-Stoudemire swap makes the most sense. From a money situation it's actually fortuitous for the Knicks, as Pau has two years with ~$57m remaining on his deal. And from a basketball standpoint it would be a much more congruent pairing in the front court with Chandler and Melo.
Like the Yankees, the Lakers essentially print money. The luxury tax isn't something they are necessarily afraid of, and they wisely saved their Amnesty card, which they could then use on Amar'e or Metta World Peace should they completely decline. Bynum, Stoudemire, Kobe, and maybe the likes of Ramon Sessions, or Johnny Flynn is kind of nice isn’t it ? Furthermore if L.A. was able to hit on the right role players, to accompany second year guard Andrew Goudelock, they might be a more formidable match (in theory) to make a more realistic run out west.
Aside from those two scenarios, any other rumored moves (ala Chicago for Boozer) or some convoluted three-way deal with Golden State and Phoenix, are so unlikely they really aren't even worth putting too much thought into on the trade machine. What every Knick fan — and even the front office sans James Dolan — knows is that until the Knickerbockers can free themselves from the snare of the Amar'e contract, they won't have the ability to make moves in their backcourt and bench to contend with the ever-improving Eastern Conference.
1 We are going to take the premise that Stoudemire's 2005, when he played just three games, is statistically irrelevent.
2 Plus the unintentional comedy of having Kim Kardashian courtside with her new beau Kayne West while Hump is on the court could make for some awesome entertainment.
3 Assuming they don't sign extensions in the meantime.
Fan Hub Action
Jeanne-Marie Jansen Lowell May 23rd
Greatest relief pitcher EVER! Someday we can all tell our grandchildren we got to see him pitch. A true legend!
Charlie Lobosco May 23rd
Ask Craig; I’ll say it again; not the best relief pitcher ever; the best MLB player ever. Yes, that includes everyone.
Jim Lowell May 23rd
Great tribute to a great player, a great Yankee, and a great man.Thank you!
Frank Lowell May 23rd
Great job, Ryan! As a life-long Yankee hater since the 1950’s in the closing days of the Brooklyn Dodgers, I can only sit back and…
Tiffany Riddle May 23rd
Love the article, and I completely agree!
Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
Charlie Lobosco May 1st
This is a very compelling story because Mr. Collins is a very passionate, tough, intelligent, athelete taking on some additional responsibliity to help others as…
Scott Cohen May 1st
Charlie.. very well said.. he does have guts
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