It only took one game back on the court, but Amar’e Stoudemire is already causing a slight stir, this time talking about his own defensive shortcomings.
Stoudemire has been one of the best scoring forwards since the day he was drafted by the Phoenix Suns in 2002. He’s been among the NBA’s top 10 scorers four times, is sixth among all active players with a 21.6 average, and twice has been among the top 10 players in blocked shots. In 641 career games, Stoudemire has started 624 while averaging 8.8 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and shooting 53.3 percent from the field. He as good as it gets when it comes to scoring the basketball at primarily the power forward spot.
However, he has always been regarded as a poor defender, dating back to when he played for Mike D’Antoni in Phoenix from 2004-2008. It didn’t get much better for him when he was reunited with D’Antoni for another season and a half in New York from 2010-12. Stoudemire has been a poor rebounder for a man with his size and athleticism, and lacks any kind of defensive instincts.
Not surprisingly, Stoudemire looked lost on the defensive side of the ball during his 16-minute, six-point, one-rebound debut Tuesday night against the Blazers. But he believes that his defense will improve now that he has a coach that actually emphasizes on it in Mike Woodson and unintentionally takes a swipe at his former coach.
“Just having a defensive coach for the first time in my career is going to help,” Stoudemire said. “I’ve never been taught defense in my whole career. To now have a coach that actually teaches defense and teaches strategies and knows positioning and posture and how to guard different plays is going to be helpful. I’m going to take it as a challenge, accept the challenge and try to improve as a player.”
Even though Stoudemire admitted that his defense needed to be polished, the team defense of the Knicks has vanished in recent games. In their last two first halves against the Kings and Blazers, they have allowed a combined 129 points. They have allowed at least 100 points in eight of their last 12 games. They yielded 100 only five times in the first 19.
“Early on we were committed on defense,” said Woodson.”There’s been a major drop from when we started to three days ago. We’ve had slippage of late. We’ve got to get guys committed, as best as possible. Sometimes it’s registering and sometimes it’s not.”
Woodson indicated that there would be a change in the starting lineup but that will not be Stoudemire being inserted into the starting lineup.
“He can’t play a lot of minutes right now,” Woodson said. ” We are going to keep him in the 16 minute frame for the time being.”
It was the first time in his last 416 games that Stoudemire was not in the starting lineup. He has indicated that as long as the Knicks are winning, he has no problems coming off the bench for the time being.
“Depending on how we’re playing, if we’re playing well, I have no problem coming off the bench,” Stoudemire said.
New York hopes to back on the wininng track as they host the Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs tonight at the Garden.