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Amar'e Stoudemire: Icon of the New York reclamation

Jul 5, 2010, 10:30 PM EDT

Thumbnail image for stoudemire.pngLost in the debates on if the Knicks should have traded for Tracy McGrady (and his cap space) at the cost of their draft picks in 2011 (swapped) and 2012 to the Rockets, and whether the Knicks will manage to acquire one of the true elites of the free agent class (two names, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade) is just how severe a hole the Knicks were in.

The damage reaped upon New York’s basketball flagship by the former GM who shall remain nameless was so severe, the Knicks are just now getting out from under the massive anvil he dropped on them. Every season for the past six years, Knicks fans have convinced themselves the team would be competitive. Not championship-level elite, just competitive. But somehow, Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph with QRich never quite worked out. Then the new regime came in, and Knicks fans hoped they’d be competitive, but the talent just wasn’t there.

To rebuild, to truly rebuild, if you’re not blessed with a former player handing you a former MVP at a discount price, you have to torch the whole thing and start over. You can’t leave anything substantial behind. Then you have to find one central player to build around. Danilo Galinari? A nice touch, a good solid window pane feature, but it’s not something you construct as a pillar to build the structure on.

No more Al Harrington as the premier offensive threat. No more David Lee as the primary perimeter pick and roll man. The Knicks have an elite player at a key position and they can begin to formulate a competitive team around him. Get LeBron, don’t get LeBron, get Wade, don’t get Wade, things have changed in New York.

Donnie Walsh has said several times that their plan goes beyond this season. That they have to be committed to building long-term, even if they whif on the top free agents this summer. Rome was not built in a day, and it is dwarfed by New York. To build a team fitting of the greatest city on Earth, to compete in this era’s NBA, may take patience and ingenuity, something that Walsh has already demonstrated.

Let’s be clear, the Knicks took a risk here. They convinced Amar’e to be the first of the free agent dominoes to fall, and convinced him that they have a plan to win a championship and that he is a central component. They could have waited for James and Wade to make their decisions, but that may have resulted in them being left out in the cold. If the Big 2 do not make their way to the Five Boroughs, New York won’t be left holding an empty net. Someone in this free agency summer is going to lose, and lose big. The Knicks avoided that fate and have a player to build around.

There are a billion things to be done now. Convince one of the other key free agents to commit. Barring that, trade David Lee for the best sign-and-trade package they can acquire. Sign a point guard that can run the pick and roll, immediately, in a market short on such point guards (Raymond Felton may be about to have Christmas in July). Sign or acquire shooters to put on the perimeter. Find someone, anyone to play center who has a pulse. (No, Eddy Curry does not count.)

From there, it’s tweaking, and adjusting, to build a new powerhouse, a team that finally, truly has something to say in the NBA.

And as much as Knicks fans, and their organization, want to contend for championships, just having that say is a place to start. It’s an improvement, a move in the right direction after nearly 10 years of moves in the opposite direction. Huge contracts to players who obviously weren’t worth them. Say what you want about Stoudemire, he’s at least worthy of being in the conversation for the contract he’s been offered. No more draft picks of guys who are only auxiliary help on a sinking boat.

And most importantly, no more disgraces in the headlines that let the fans know that the people in charge of the team they love most is ran by the wrong people. This signals the right thing. The Knicks aren’t just an attractive free agent destination because of the city. They’re a pull because of the city, and the fans, and the organization, and the players.

Moreso than any other fanbase, the Knicks fans I’ve talked to have been the most pessimistic towards the team signing LeBron James or Dwyane Wade. They’re smart basketball fans that realize just how terrible they’ve been and how little they’ve had to offer in the way of championship contention. But this agreement to sign may just signal to them that that time period is over. That they can feel confident in their team’s ability to make the right moves, to attract the top guys, to be a team that is at the top, or if nothing else, just not at the bottom of the league.

Progress is a process, and it begins with a singular defining movement, the culmination of planning, though, and consideration. Stoudemire’s arrival in New York, declaring the Knicks as “back” may be presumptuous and overly bold, but that’s what’s needed. New York basketball no longer needs to humble itself to drive the poison out. It can square its shoulders and declare that the Knicks are once again in the arena, ready to compete. And that’s at least something for such a beaten fanbase.

It’s been a long, hard road just to get to a point where they can start the upward climb. But after a decade of misery and angst, the Knicks have made their first big move that makes sense. For all Stoudemire’s faults, he’s also been a near-MVP candidate at times, has years in front of him, and knows D’Antoni’s system as well as anyone.

The future isn’t now. But the light on the horizon is no longer just the jubilation of other teams making moves the Knicks have missed.

New York returns to relevance, starting tonight.

  1. Big V - Jul 6, 2010 at 8:50 AM

    Who said we’re through pitching Lebron. If you knew anything about what you’re talking about, you’d know that we have the room to offer him a max deal in addition to Amare.
    Laughing your a$$ off, huh? Let’s see how much you laugh when your Suns team gets officially blown off the map. Say what you will. Our trajectory is up, yours is surely down.

  2. Steve - Jul 6, 2010 at 9:28 AM

    What are you talking about Drew? Do you know what pessimistic means here? It means that we are doubtful it will happen. It does not mean that we don’t want it to happen. Ummmm.
    Drew
    What Knick fans are pessimistic about signing Lebron or Wade!?!? This is ridiculous. These are the “smart” fans? Ok, set this straight for me. They’re pessimistic about signing Lebron or Wade. Then who do they want to sign? Yeah, let’s rebuild a franchise, but let’s not do it with two of the best players in the world. To the extent that I even believe there would be a Knick fan “pessimistic” about signing either of those two, it’s probably out of denial or out of pettiness for not being able to sign them.

  3. Craig - Jul 6, 2010 at 12:13 PM

    Good for the Knicks, now they can suck even more, at least he is out of Phoenix, He will be nothing without Nash, Ny will be looking to kick his butt out of town in 2 yrs

  4. chris - Jul 6, 2010 at 12:25 PM

    Drew, the first thing you need to do before you go on a rant is buy a dictionary. I do like how then you throw out “smart fans” from the article when you have the IQ of a retarded chimp. I’m guessing you are a Lakers fan though.

  5. doug - Jul 6, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    lmaooo they still have room for lebron and this was to attract lebron to ny..cmon you gotta get a grip on the knicks plan before wildly posting

  6. Alex - Jul 6, 2010 at 5:13 PM

    What exactly constitutes elite? This guy has consistently appeared in the playoffs and he was a 20 point man BEFORE Nash ever showed up (remember he started off averaging 20 with Starbury). My only concern is his knees, but the man has averaged 72+ regular games per year (not to mention playoffs) for 4 years since microfracture surgery.
    More importantly, he has the gonads to want to take on NY. As much as I love Lebron and would want him in NY, I do not honestly feel he has the attitude that is required to flourish in NY. And forget about Bosh – after a week of being attacked in the media he’ll start sulking. The only other one of the elite group that I think can handle NY is DWade and I am hoping he’s the one that gets added.

  7. PhillyJ - Jul 7, 2010 at 2:51 AM

    Amare at 28 y.o. has played way too many minutes and will break down soon. His game is 16-18 ft jump shots or dunks. He has no back to the basket game. Also, he got 2-5 baskets spoon fed from Steve Nash every game. You think Toney Douglas will be able to do that or even Raymond Felton if you guys do pick him up? Essentially, he’s a highly skilled “garbage player”
    Stoudemire would have been a good sign for 3 years and 45mill, but he’s definitely not worth max money. He’ll finish, but with this team, the opposing team can just double team Amare and the Knicks will be back in the lottery. I doubt Lebron will come to NY. He knows Amare won’t be enough to win the championship.

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