Dec 21, 2011; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks power forward Amare Stoudemire (1) and small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) during the first quarter against the New Jersey Nets at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

What Will Happen When Amar'e Stoudemire Returns?

After Carmelo Anthony notched his first triple-double as a Knick; after Steve Novak and J.R. Smith unleashed a barrage of three-pointers on the Boston Celtics; after the New York Knicks defeated their division foes last night in a potentially critical game, there wasn’t any doubting the fire-power that the Knicks offense possesses.

At least no doubts like the ones produced this past Sunday when the Knicks were held to 85 points by the Miami Heat. It was a lowly offensive performance that prompted members of the team to say that they need to give Carmelo Anthony more help on offense. Even Anthony himself has stated that he’s looking forward to receiving some more help. Anthony, via ESPN New York:

“‘[Stoudemire] just gives us some better options,’ Anthony said. ‘It gives us another presence out there. It brings us one of our key players, one of our leaders, back to the team. We can’t wait until he gets back.'”

Until recently, with Amar’e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin both out, Anthony had been having the worst season of his career. Though rarely healthy and injury-free, Anthony had been off-the-mark from everywhere on the floor, shooting at a career-low field goal percentage, at one point dipping below 40%. Since taking over as top dog, with the injuries to Stoudemire and Lin, Anthony has raised his shooting to 42.8% while averaging 31 ppg in his previous ten games.

Those struggles are also indicative of Amar’e Stoudemire’s season. While also grappling with injuries throughout the season, Stoudemire clearly struggled to play his normal, explosive game with the muscle weight he had added in the offseason. He seemed to be returning to form in March, posting a season-best 18 points per game on 56.3% shooting, but he was diagnosed with a bulging disk in his back (note the “s”, Al Trautwig) that has kept him out since.

Now, with Stoudemire set to return Friday vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers, or on Sunday vs. the Atlanta Hawks, questions have arisen about how the Knicks will function with their $100 million power forward in the lineup. Some people will point to Carmelo Anthony’s poor shooting numbers with Stoudemire on the floor, and immediately recoil and stick pins in their Amar’e voodoo dolls. While Anthony’s 39% shooting while playing with STAT is alarming, we should also recognize that their scoring numbers will naturally be down when they both play together. There is, after all, only one basketball for the two of them to share

Likewise, some fans are quick to forget that there was a stretch of play where Stoudemire and Anthony effectively coexisted. Last year, after the All-Star break, after the Knicks acquired Anthony, the two stars combined to average nearly 50 ppg together while shooting over 47% from the field. While they haven’t yet achieved that harmonious success this season, again, injuries, among other things, have also played a part.

Mike Woodson has insisted that he’ll figure out how to make it work, and with five games left in the regular season, and the playoffs looming, there isn’t time to look back. This season, the Knicks have taken their fans on a series of highs and lows, peaks and valleys. With Stoudemire’s return approaching, fans can only anticipate which they’ll experience next.

Dec 21, 2011; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks power forward Amare Stoudemire (1) and small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) during the first quarter against the New Jersey Nets at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

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