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Mike Woodson’s big hurdle: Fitting Amare Stoudemire back in

Apr 18, 2012, 2:40 PM EDT

Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony AP

If your biggest problem is how to fit a six-time All-Star who gives you 18 and 8 a night back into the lineup, you should be feeling pretty good about yourself.

But this is the New York Knicks, a team with a rabid fan base and a small margin for error, so even something like brining back Amare Stoudemire to the lineup is seen as a challenge. And potential disaster.

The Knicks are on a hot streak entering the playoffs — including a win over the Celtics Tuesday — and in the next few days they will get Stoudemire back. Likely by Friday. So far, Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony — two guys who like the offense to work through them at times and who like some of the same spots on the floor — have not blended well. John Schuhmann has the numbers at NBA.com, but since last year’s trade the Knicks have been four points per 100 possessions better when Anthony is on the floor without Stoudemire than they have been together. And the defense has been better with just ‘Melo, too.

With coach Mike Woodson admitting that ‘Melo has found a comfort level in the offense right now, and with the Knicks winning, how do you fit Stoudemire in and get him touches without throwing off the rhythm that has been built? Yes, the Knicks went 6-1 with Stoudemire and Melo together when Woodson took over, but this team now is different.

The obvious answer is to keep one of them on the floor at all times and try to stagger their minutes — they are going to have to play together at some points, particularly crunch time, but you can have one on without the other for long stretches.

Which has led CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger and others to suggest bringing Stoudemire off the bench.

He should take a page from the book of Doc Rivers, who had the clout and cojones to leave Avery Bradley in the starting lineup over Ray Allen once the aforementioned future Hall of Famer returned from an ankle injury. How did Rivers do it?

“He just sat me down and said, ‘You’re coming off the bench,'” Allen said.

Woodson has said Stoudemire “absolutely” is starting. As Berger notes, it’s easy for Rivers — with a multi-year deal and the backing of management — to tell a star to come off the bench, it’s tougher for the interim Woodson. At the end of the season he will be the Knicks fallback as coach, owner James Dolan will be reaching for the stars first.

If the Knicks had even a few weeks to work out the kinks with their star combo, this might not be as big a deal. But they are going to have three games or so, then they are going to likely get the Miami Heat in a best of seven series. The only way the Knicks stand a chance is if they are firing on all cylinders and are knocking down shots like they did against Boston.

Mike Woodson, welcome to coaching the Knicks. Never a dull moment, even when your All-Star returns.

  1. allball23 - Apr 18, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    Tough to get this to work. The reason melo has gone off is because with him at the 4 he the knicks have much better spacing and more shooters so melo has space to operate. With amare at the 4 less spacing and they both like the ball in similar spots. No lin so wont be as much pick and roll. Melo and Amare can devolop chemistry on pick and roll they would be there best bet to work together.

  2. nokoolaidcowboy - Apr 18, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    Amare is good guy. Carmelo The Diva is the one we have to worry about. Everyone keeps saying it’s his team (so much for team effort) and he loves it.

    Last night after Novocaine’s last 3 pointer Anthony was motioning for him to knock off the celebrating. Dude, Novak hits a 3 and that is how he does it, by being upbeat. But Lala’s Boy has to show he is in charge.

    Well, he’s playing now like he should have all along and now we know he sand bagged it for D’Antoni.

  3. spaceghost13 - Apr 18, 2012 at 3:36 PM

    Prior to Amar’e going out with the bulging disc, he and Melo were actually beginning to figure it out and were sharing the ball well. It will take Stat a few games to shake off the rust but this will work out just fine. Even when D’Antoni was coaching he would play Stat & Melo together in the 1st and 4th quarters and keep one of them on the floor while the other got a breather during the 2nd & 3rd quarters. Keep up the good work Coach!

  4. ericp25 - Apr 18, 2012 at 5:50 PM

    If every makes their shots, no problem

  5. pbanach01 - Apr 18, 2012 at 6:04 PM

    Use STAT like Memphis is using Zbo to get him back into the flow of things. Melo is killing it at the four but imagine Amare coming off the bench to give them some more scoring. They cannot be afraid to do that and I agree they were figuring it out right before he went out with the back injury. It obviously might not be the prettiest thing at first but Amare is a team player and will do whatever it takes to win. I am excited about these Knicks! Also @nokoolaidcowgirl-Novak celebrates EVERYTIME he hits a 3! I love him for sure but he does do it too much I think. Either way get off Melo he is killing it now and is on a wild run solidifying himself as the leader for this squad. Gotta love it!

  6. dysraw1 - Apr 18, 2012 at 8:37 PM

    say that Melo was tanking on dick D’antone. i disagree, in fact he was trying to do too much, which was the cause of some teams early problems. STAT is a professional if he is able he will a contributor. just hope he is able.

  7. midnite2020 - Apr 19, 2012 at 12:38 AM

    oh how we forget just a short while ago melody was at fault and it was lins team knicks fans flip flop more than any fans in the world try being loyal you killed ewings career can you spare stat and melo the ny bs please lin,melody,and stat are the core of the knicks and each of them are equally important stop pinning them against one another and appritiate what we have so ungrateful you want the pre amare knicks back call Othello Harrington back to be your starting foward be grateful sit down and shut up

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