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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. Anonymous - Jul 5, 2010 at 10:51 PM

    Amare for 100 Mil ? THIS is what is wrong w/ sports, contracts & agents! And just how soon does he think the Bricks, er, Knicks will be in the Finals ? Yea, none too soon & it just shows the pure greed by these players!
    Yet Darko gets what, 5,6 mil a year now & for what ? 5-6 pt’s a game, 1.4 assists & 1.5 blocks a game ?! Just more proof!
    People out of work, no health care, some have no shelter or food & water on a reg. basis & while that’s not his, LB’ DW, or KB’s fault, they need to realize so much of the country are struggling, bad, just to make ends meet & these greedy narcissists need to take a step back & maybe not be out there, looking for the most money!
    And all 4 sports have players that do this & I am getting sick & tired of it!
    That said, re: my Lakers, Fish & L/O have to move on – neither is worth their money; what LO already makes & what Fish is asking for. Fish’s agent once said he was seeking out a winner ? No, he is seeking out the most he can get as the Lakers have a legit shot for a 3 peat & all Fish seems to care about is “how much can I make?”!

  2. Mike - Jul 5, 2010 at 11:17 PM

    Walsh isn’t going for the quick fix like his predecessors and it is
    finally starting to pay off. Say what you want about Amare but he is an elite player in his prime coming off of a great year despite his injuries. The Knicks are starting to build a rep again and that is just as important in attracting FAs as money.

  3. Richard Waid - Jul 5, 2010 at 11:19 PM

    Amare is a better player than David Lee, but Lee is a very good player, younger, and healthier. Plus he has a ton of heart, and most nights has been the best player the Knicks have put onto the floor. If all the Knicks accomplish is to replace Lee with Stoudemire, they will have improved the team but slightly and indeed without a better point guard than the Knicks currently employ, Lee might in fact be a better player than Stoudemire. Amare has talent, but he sucks on defense and Lee was a double-double machine playing out of position. Unless they can land a truly elite player (or a terrific point guard) the Knicks ought to sign David Lee and not some 33-year-old player past his prime.

  4. Ken Weide - Jul 5, 2010 at 11:19 PM

    Amare is an “elite” player? He plays no-D, is an average rebounder at best, and has a low basketball IQ. Doesn’t sound like an elite player to me….

  5. SunzFan - Jul 5, 2010 at 11:38 PM

    Knicks can have Amare – he’ll wind up just like Shawn Marion cuz he wont amount to much without Nash feeding him the ball. Knicks better pick up a point guard that can dish it

  6. wohugh - Jul 5, 2010 at 11:44 PM

    Take it from someone who’s lived in Phoenix for the last 44 years -You aint goin’ nowhere with this 20 points and seven rebounds a game pig!!! Don’t you get it Donnie? He had Nash! Now he’s a bum just like all the others that have left and you’ve never heard from again!
    Amare Stoudemire? This is what you’ve been waiting for all these years? All I’ve been hearing for the last three years is getting Lebron! You quit that soon? You make one pitch at the guy and that’s it?
    You people have blamed Isaiah for all your problems – The problem is your ignorant owner who knows nothing about basketball!!!
    Mark my words: 2010-2011: Amare – 16 ppg, 8 rebounds. You’re not only stuck with a non-dribbling, non-shooting ball hog for five years, but you’re still stuck with the owner for as long as he’s alive!!! The irony is that you’ll have to wait until he kicks the bucket before you can consider even getting close to a championship!!! 100 million for this??? I get to spend the next five years doing what I’ve done for the last twenty – laughin’ my ass off!!!

  7. Big Dock - Jul 6, 2010 at 12:16 AM

    I agree with you totally and someone should slap the owners for paying that kind of money.

  8. Drew - Jul 6, 2010 at 12:28 AM

    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.

  9. That 1 Guy - Jul 6, 2010 at 12:37 AM

    lol @ the drivel in this article.
    Since when was Amare elite? As others have noted – disinterested playing defense, average rebounder for the athlete he is(for instance getting out-rebounded by Nash of all people in one or more playoff games this past year. sad). Plus having already had microfracture surgery which could accelerate his decline. His game is based on athleticism, not a whole lot in the way of skill. Heck, he doesn’t have much of a post game and he’s not an “anchor” big. Basically a face up mid-range player.
    He’ll get his numbers with or without Nash just because he is a match-up problem(efficiency could dip a bit), but I’ll be interested to see if he can actually expand his game or if this is the best he’ll be(likely the latter).
    Drew – what are you talking about? Were fans supposed to be ordering their James or Wade jerseys? There was literally no reason for those players to head there. Now with Amare on board, who knows. I doubt it either way.

  10. duddits - Jul 6, 2010 at 12:45 AM

    AS will not have the skills you think without the solid skills of Nash and company. The Suns as a team held him together. My prediction Knicks win maybe 35 games this season.

  11. JaggedEdge - Jul 6, 2010 at 12:47 AM

    Amare, an elite player Mike? He’s a good player, but eliete he is not, w/ a career of 21/6. And they ran so many picks in Phoenix for him & he will not get that there in NY. I like Lee a lot more than Amare & he is like Odom as he doesn’t show up to play D most games. Heck, Odom doesn’t show up to play both O & D most nights & they pay him 8+ a season!

  12. JaggedEdge - Jul 6, 2010 at 12:51 AM

    Correction, as I mist hit the key; Amare’s career #’s are 21/9, not 6; my bad, but still not a 20 Mil a season player.

  13. josh - Jul 6, 2010 at 12:57 AM

    Drew,clearly you are mis understanding thee point about knicks fans eing pessamistic about signing wade or lebron.what he is trying to say,speaking as a knick fan is that the knicks fans have a negative mentality because they have been the laughingstock of the leauge for the last 10 years they are pessimistic on their chances of them signing with the knicks certaintly and trust me knicks fans would be partying in the streets if we signed lebron or wade

  14. josh - Jul 6, 2010 at 1:07 AM

    Drew,clearly you are mis understanding thee point about knicks fans eing pessamistic about signing wade or lebron.what he is trying to say,speaking as a knick fan is that the knicks fans have a negative mentality because they have been the laughingstock of the leauge for the last 10 years they are pessimistic on their chances of them signing with the knicks certaintly and trust me knicks fans would be partying in the streets if we signed lebron or wade

  15. Jeremy - Jul 6, 2010 at 1:41 AM

    Quit acting like this is all Isiah’s fault. Isiah didn’t start the fire, it was burning for several years before he got there, he just kept throwing more logs on it…
    Speaking of throwing more logs on the fire, signing Stoudamire for $100 Million feels exactly like what Isiah was doing for his last two years, paying too much money for players with sub-par talent and sub-par attitudes. I can’t understand how anyone in New York would be happy with this deal, and I guarantee that if Isiah were still the GM, everyone in the NY media would be (rightfully) tearing him apart for making this move.

  16. Adam T - Jul 6, 2010 at 2:06 AM

    The author of this column did not say Amare was the best player in the NBA. I don’t consider myself an Amare apologist and I doubt the author is either, but to argue that this guy is not an elite big man in the NBA is laughable. Did u watch the WCF? He consistently broke Gasol down on the low block..to the point where all Pau could do was shake his head because he had no chance guarding him one on one (this coming from a lakers fan). We are talking about the guy that led the entire NBA in points in the paint and by nearly 200 points (yes over Dwight). Not elite?? Really? A big man that only has a good midrange game?? Save your breath! He’s not the basketball messiah and he has a history of injuries, but to knock the dudes game like some idiots on here is just trolling garbage. Maybe he’s never been a great defender but defense is a team effort and he’s never played w a team of good defenders. Add to all this the fact that you have to overpay anytime you are signing a guy away from their original team that was already good, and NY has to be happy to get a top 5 or so big man in the league…

  17. stutron - Jul 6, 2010 at 2:14 AM

    The Knicks continue their streak of overpaying for a player who will have zero impact on the team’s Win, Lee’s numbers are better and he had Chris Duhon Nothing for a PG while Amare had Nash feeding him the ball. The Knicks unquestionably have the dumbest management in all of the NBA

  18. Sam - Jul 6, 2010 at 4:01 AM

    If you don’t like what players make for their salary then simple. Don’t watch. They aren’t forcing you. Obviously it doesn’t bother you that much as you’re still at least reading about basketball. I mean really. That is the only way for people like you to force players to make less money. Don’t go to games. Don’t pay $8 for a beer. Don’t buy a jersey. Don’t pay $25 to park. Don’t watch on TV and therefore watch commercials that make the NBA money. Simple. Don’t watch. Then salaries will go down.

  19. Barack Obama - Jul 6, 2010 at 4:37 AM

    Silly, ungrateful Knicks fans should be glad somebody wanted to play for that cesspool of a team. They act like New York has ever had great teams………..
    Your foolish front office should build themseleve’s after the front office down here in Southern texas……….

  20. McGruber - Jul 6, 2010 at 4:52 AM

    Trade David Lee for Lamar Odom then sign Jordan Farmar. Odom will be an upgrade over Harrington, Farmar is better than Duhon or Rodriguez and Amare is an improvement over David Lee only if he learns how to rebound like a 6’11” player.

  21. McGruber - Jul 6, 2010 at 4:54 AM

    Trade David Lee for Lamar Odom then sign Jordan Farmar. Odom will be an upgrade over Harrington, Farmar is better than Duhon or Rodriguez and Amare is an improvement over David Lee only if he learns how to rebound like a 6’11” player.

  22. McGruber - Jul 6, 2010 at 4:56 AM

    Sign and trade David Lee for Lamar Odom then sign Jordan Farmar. Odom will be an upgrade over Harrington, Farmar is better than Duhon or Rodriguez and Amare is an improvement over David Lee only if he learns how to rebound like a 6’11” player.

  23. john pileggi - Jul 6, 2010 at 7:51 AM

    Pretty uplifting piece. I hope that center with a pulse appears and the point guard (maybe Toney Douglas) can get the ball to Amare, and most of all, I hope another quality free agent makes a move to NY.

  24. jetdr - Jul 6, 2010 at 8:40 AM

    Knicks fans will be suprisied how poor of a team player this guy is. No rings for a looooong time.

  25. eph521 - Jul 6, 2010 at 8:45 AM

    @AdamT – nice post, i think you’re analysis is dead on.
    @Sam – exactly! well said my man

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