As the New York Knicks make a final playoff push, one thing has been evident about their improved play of late: Amar’e Stoudemire’s resurgence. In five games since he’s been inserted into the starting lineup, the Knicks are 4-1, while Stoudemire has averaged 18 points on 67% shooting with 6.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. He’s also played every game this month while averaging over 27 minutes per game.
Though the Knicks are still in the playoff picture, and Stoudemire may simply be playing because he’s been effective, it’s fair to wonder if the Knicks are simply showcasing him.
For instance, prior to this little four-game run, the Knicks seemed dead in the water. They had lost seven games in a row and 10 of their last 11. The playoffs didn’t even seem like a possibility. Mike Woodson decided to insert Stoudemire into the starting lineup — why? Was it a last-ditch effort to try and find a winning formula (Woodson stumbled into that one, magically) or was it an order from up-top?
Stoudemire, like Carmelo Anthony, has an early-termination option for the final year of his contract. The Knicks will be hopeful that Stoudemire decides to opt out this summer, but it’s extremely unlikely that Stoudemire would opt out of a $23-million paycheck. Thus, despite his huge final year, he will have value as an expiring contract in the 2014-15 season.
This could be the reason for Stoudemire’s recent uptick in minutes. If he continues to play well and stay healthy, the Knicks may be able to prove to other teams that despite his balky knees and bloated contract, he still has value as a player.
Especially as the Knicks plan their future with Carmelo Anthony and Phil Jackson supposedly close to signing with the front office, moving Stoudemire certainly figures into one of their priorities. It may not be likely, but convincing teams that Stoudemire has value as an expiring contract and as a player could be the Knicks kicking their future plans into gear. The Knicks’ front office may have ordered Woodson to play Stoudemire extra minutes in order to showcase him to other teams.
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