Amar’e Stoudemire is making an investment into being not just a better player, but a wholly different one. He’s dumping the flight-oriented highlights for low-post spins and drop-steps because, frankly, he has to. It isn’t that his style of play was bad, it’s that it was bad for his knees. And for that, he is going to Hakeem Olajuwon. But will it work, or is it too late?
Howard Beck of the New York Times has the story today of a committed Stoudemire who is staying with Olajuwon for two weeks, which is longer than usual for one of his recent, star pupils. At coach Mike Woodson‘s suggestion, STAT headed south for some fixes before his game did completely. It is everything you would want to hear as a coach, that your 29-year-old, established star is putting in the sweat equity to revamp his style of play after his worst season. We wrote about this need to change only a couple days ago in Smack. My question is whether this change is coming too late and is too drastic to be effective. You just don’t see players switch their games halfway through their careers. Once dominant big men simply become a shell of their former selves instead of trying to reinvent the shell.
Going from high-flying forward to a low-block player is the easier of the two for STAT than a player trying to go the other way. He was built for the sky but can walk on land just as easily because of his exceptionally nimble footwork, the same trait that Olajuwon points on in the story.
“His spin is becoming so sharp and crisp,” Olajuwon said. “He could spin all day. He loves it.”
The motivation to succeed is also in Stoudemire’s corner, because he won’t want to be embarrassed like he was last season for reasons of play (his lowest PPG since his rookie year) and decision-making (slicing open a hand in Miami on a fire box). If this comes too late, it won’t be because of STAT’s work. He’s seen as something of a basketball dilettante in the offseason because of his public love of fashion, but I don’t doubt he’s working to regain his spot as an elite power forward. In just two seasons that distinction has passed him by with Kevin Love and Blake Griffin. There’s no reason to doubt his resolve here.
No, it could be because for all of Woodson’s care in suggesting he go to Houston (and flying down to check in, too) the offense might be beyond STAT’s full control now, too. The Knicks don’t have many options other than Carmelo and STAT (we can dream about Steve Novak‘s impact) but the pick and rolls he would dream about with Jason Kidd now will belong to Carmelo or possibly Tyson Chandler. Has he improved his post defense with Olajuwon, too? The East just got harder with Andrew Bynum. Will he revert to relying on his mid-range game, once potent but sagging last year to its lowest level since 2004, if the post doesn’t work out early?
Making this investment is a move that is the smartest one he could make even considering he has to do it. It’s just encouraging that he is trying something this drastic. I don’t see it as desperate but equal parts selflessness and self-preservation. I’m as interested as anyone to see if it can work over a full season, but I have my doubts the timing is right and time spent with Olajuwon is enough.
What do you think?
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