Amar'e Stoudemire wasn't on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. He embarrassed himself and his team during this spring's NBA playoffs. He's been criticized for being a power forward with no low-post game.
Between his comparatively poor performance on the court, his continual struggle with injuries and the onset of off-court tragedy when his brother was killed in a February car crash, New York Knicks power forward Stoudemire has had a tumultuous 12 months. To try to get his game back on point, Stoudemire has called on one of the great NBA centers of all time, working with Hakeem Olajuwon to improve his game and possibly his approach entering the 2012-13 season.
According to the New York Times, Stoudemire is following in the footsteps of a number of NBA big men who have traveled to Katy, Texas, to work with Olajuwon on the finer points of the post game. And based on Olajuwon's observations, the work appears to be paying off:
"You won’t believe it," Olajuwon said in a telephone interview from his ranch outside Houston.
The apprenticeship began on Aug. 6, with daily three-hour sessions on Olajuwon’s private court. Stoudemire has proved a quick study, assimilating moves and countermoves as fast as Olajuwon can demonstrate them.
"It’s night and day," Olajuwon said. "What’s so nice is he wants it, he likes the post. He’s always wanted to play there, but he doesn’t have the moves that would give him that option."
Since "The Dream" retired from the NBA in 2002, he has become the de facto go-to guy for players seeking to improve their post game. With a client list ranging from Kobe Bryant to the Lopez twins, Olajuwon has developed an incredible reputation for his ability to improve a player's back-to-the-basket skills.
Despite standing 6-foot-11, Stoudemire has never been that type of player; he's never really needed to be.
Playing for coach Mike D'Antoni with both the Phoenix Suns and the Knicks, Stoudemire was part of an offense that allowed him to get his points off pick-and-roll plays or by moving toward the basket in transition. But in a different offensive system under Knicks coach Mike Woodson, for Stoudemire to become the dominating forward that many expect him to be, it's imperative that he develop a more well-rounded offensive skill set that enables him to be dangerous anywhere in the half-court.
Stoudemire is expected to spend at least one full month in Texas training with Olajuwon.