The New York Knicks and the first major free agent of the summer: sounds like a case of love at first sight.
Mike D'Antoni has long been enamored with Amare Stoudemire, and although they had their lovers' tryst in the form of Amare saying he preferred Phoenix's Alvin Gentry over his ex-coach, now that they've been reunited in the Mecca of Basketball, everything seems lovey-dovey again, right?
Alan Hahn of Newsday made it sound a lot less romantic on his Twitter.
Here's the thing about the Amar'e/Knicks marriage: they both need each other. Both realized the market was drying up on them.
After all the courting and wooing, Hahn argues the Knicks' relationship with Stoudemire is less about romance and more of a marriage of necessity. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. For two reasons.
Firstly, no, Stoudemire was never the Knicks No. 1 option this summer. That list probably had LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh on it before his name came up.
But let's not ignore how, well, great a player the big man is. A lot of people attribute his success to having played alongside all-decade point guard Steve Nash, he of the back-to-back MVP's, the man who reinvigorated the Phoenix Suns' franchise into being a perennial sorta-contender. But don't forget that before Nash was a Sun, Stoudemire had already established his reputation as a great interior scorer, averaging 20.6 points a game in his sophomore season with... wait... for... it... Stephon Marbury as the point guard for about half the season, and with Howard Eisley and Leandro Barbosa filling in down the stretch after Marbury was traded to the Knicks. (Anybody remember Stephon Marbury on the Knicks? Oh, I had blocked it out of my memory, too. Weird how that works.)
But the other reason Stoudemire can still be effective without Nash is his skill out of running the pick-and-roll, Mike D'Antoni's weapon of choice. Yes, that's also Nash's weapon of choice, as NBA Playbook pointed out, a lot of the time, the onus for effective big man play in the pick-and-roll falls squarely on the roller. Chris Duhon, the Knicks' point guard last year, was a terrible point guard. But the stats on NBA Playbook show that the Knicks led the league in points scored by the roller per possession that the Knicks ran the pick and roll, a good tenth of a point higher than any other team in the league. Second? Stoudemire and the Phoenix Suns. You can interpret that in two ways: that Chris Duhon is an all-world point guard along with Nash, or that David Lee and Stoudemire are both very effective scorers off the pick-and-roll. If you've ever watched Duhon touch a basketball, you're aware of the answer to this question.
The second reason New York's latest arranged marriage can be a beautiful relationship is Amare's much ballyhooed ability to lure other free agents. Stoudemire has called out Carmelo Anthony and Tony Parker, but the 800-pound superstar in the room is clearly LeBron James. Everybody has cited one thing as to why no free agents were considering New York: a roster that wasn't fit to win.
Any roster withJames and toudemire is built to win. The other two or three players New York has under contract, like Danilo Gallinari and Toney Douglas, are nothing to scoff at, not championship contenders, but neither are the pieces Cleveland has sitting around waiting to play alongside James. Obviously, the front-runner would still be a threesome of James, another free agent, and Derrick Rose, but if Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade snap that opportunity up, the Knicks might not just be an option for LeBron to win a championship, but the best one remaining.
So, no. The Knicks and Stoudemire's romance is not like, well, when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie. Both parties agreed to the deal less because they had been in love from the start and more because the Knicks saw they were at risk of getting shut out in the free agency class of 2010 that they had based their past two years of management over, and because Stoudemire had been nickel-and-dimed out of Phoenix and saw few other available suitors.
But that doesn't mean this can't be a healthy, long-lasting relationship. In fact, in one fell swoop, Stoudemire might have turned a Knicks franchise that looked on the verge of massive failure into one on the verge of competing.