Friday night’s 98-90 loss by the New York Knicks to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Amare Stoudemire’s return to the lineup stoked the fears that Knicks fans have been harboring during Carmelo Anthony’s recent hot streak.
Anthony came crashing down to Earth with a 12-point, 5-for-13 performance, along with four turnovers. Anthony scored 11 of his 12 points in the first half and attempted just one field goal in the second half. Woodson scratched Landry Fields from the starting lineup, and pushed Anthony back to small forward for Stoudemire. However, Stoudemire could only muster 15 points and wasn’t any help on defense.
Cleveland’s Samardo Samuels and Tristan Thompson combined to score 25 points on Stoudemire.
"His movement and how he’s alert defensively — that’s my big concern," Woodson said. "I’m more concerned with five guys on the floor, helping one another defend and rebound the ball. I think offensively we’ll figure it out."
Stoudemire has always been an awful defender. He’s even acknowledged it in the past by claiming he was never taught defense until his final season in Phoenix. Woodson won’t solve Stoudemire’s individual defensive deficiencies in the next few days. However, rediscovering the MVP caliber post scorer should be his prime mission.
These Knicks are vexing. Stoudemire and Anthony play better when the other is out the lineup but also don’t have enough firepower without Stoudemire to beat the Bulls or Heat in a playoff series.
They’ve got an unselfish yet ball dominating point forward and an athletic face-up power forward. Both are top-15 individual NBA talents but their small forward (Carmelo Anthony) plays better at power forward) and their power forward (Amare Stoudemire) is a shell of his former self. Meanwhile, the most popular Knick is a dribble-drive point guard that scores in the lane about as frequently as Tony Parker but has a penchant for turnovers.
The end result: (STAT) + (Melo) < Melo – STAT = Jeremy Lin + Melo – STAT + D’Antoni
It’s confusing and that’s the problem. Inserting Jeremy Lin back into the point guard position may be the answer. Or perhaps putting the ball in Lin’s hands and out of Anthony’s hinders the offense further.
However, in the past Chandler and Stoudemire thrived on the pick and roll with Lin.
A great point guard is invaluable. Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving proved that last night by scoring 21 points in his second game back. Jeremy Lin may not be as skilled as the No.1 overall pick in his draft but it’s possible he became just as important to the Knicks as Stoudemire.
Hopefully, Friday night’s return by Stoudemire was an aberration as he’s integrated back into the lineup.
The San Antonio Spurs spoiled Kobe Bryant’s return Friday, however, San Antonio is the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed. Cleveland is a lottery team that just lost to Detroit by 39.
The Knicks also may have subconsciously scaled back their efforts after clinching a playoff berth.
"I’ve seen this happen over the years,’’ Woodson said. "You clinch a spot. It’s like a sigh of relief. They stop playing and they think they can gear it back up.’’
However, Stoudemire and Anthony’s history together tells us this was not an aberration.
These Knicks are too inconsistent. Most worrisome is that Anthony and Stoudemire are only part-time superstars working with full-time CEO salaries. Championship caliber teams don’t have to explain these types of lapses constantly.
The Stoudemire-Anthony led Knicks are more reminiscent of the Rocket’s failed Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady experiment. While the pair was expected to compete for championships as the answer to L.A.’s Kobe and Shaq but they were never consistently healthy at the same time.
Knicks fans haven’t seen Woodson’s Knicks at full strength because Anthony, Stoudemire and Lin have each been nursing one injury or another. Anthony, Lin, Stoudemire, Woodson and D’Antoni have been a jigsaw puzzle for basketball fans 10 and up. They still haven’t figured it out.
Barring a Stoudemire trade, the Knicks may have to wait until next season to find out.