11:01 am May. 2, 2012
After Amar'e Stoudemire's self-inflicted injury, the New York Knicks face the prospect of trying to beat the Miami Heat without the team's second-best scorer (after Carmelo Anthony) and second-best rebounder (after Tyson Chandler).
There is no replacing that, exactly. But their best shot at simulating Stoudemire's presence may be to turn his minutes over to the little-used Josh Harrellson.
Coach Mike Woodson has other options, of course, including giving more minutes to Jared Jeffries, who has done an admirable job as a defender and rebounder when he's been healthy enough to play. But using Harrellson at power forward would allow the Knicks to play Jeffries at center, providing necessary rest for Tyson Chandler, their invaluable center. Jeffries is also severely hampered by a knee injury, which has limited him to eight minutes in Game 1 and four minutes in Game 2.
And yes, Anthony has thrived playing power forward in Stoudemire's absence, offensively. But defensively, Anthony was frequently bullied by larger fours. Having Harrellson on the court solves that problem without creating a spacing issue on the offensive end.
Consider that defensively, the Knicks can use Harrellson against Miami's interior players: He can guard Chris Bosh, for instance, freeing Chandler to play the roving role that made him so effective this season. Consider also that Harrellson's rebounding is actually better than Stoudemire's, statistically, with 9.6 boards per 36 minutes this year to 8.6 for Stoudemire.
On offense, the two players do not need to occupy the same space. Anthony can set up inside, while Harrellson is actually a dangerous shooter on the wings, hitting 34 percent of his three-pointers this season. And he'll either draw Bosh out to guard him, or else LeBron James will head his way, freeing Anthony to face a larger, slower Bosh on the defensive end, or Anthony will be frequently double-teamed, leaving Harrellson open for perimeter shots he can make.
Adding Harrellson into the mix for major minutes would also lessen the chances that the regular starters, already banged-up, will fall apart down the stretch of whatever playoff games the Knicks have left to play. Harrellson, if nothing else, is fresh, having played just nine minutes in Game 1 and none in Game 2.
Deciding to ask Harrellson to play a meaningful role Thursday would require coach Mike Woodson to trust a rookie, something he's been disinclined to do throughout his coaching career. But just as Mike D'Antoni turned to Jeremy Lin for want of other options, Woodson might just do it. Now, as then, it doesn't seem like the Knicks have anything to lose by taking a chance.