10:20 am Oct. 22, 20121
The New York Knicks have had a vision of playing Amar'e Stoudemire, the power forward they signed to a max contract in the summer of 2010, with Carmelo Anthony, the small forward they acquired in a March 2011 trade with the Nuggets, for longer than both players have been on the team.
The fit has been a difficult one so far, albeit for perfectly understandable reasons. Both players came from careers in which they'd been their team's number one option to score; Stoudemire with the Phoenix Suns, Anthony with the Denver Nuggets. The idea behind bringing them together was to blend their talents to produce the championships neither had accumulated on their own.
The two players, simply put, haven't figured out how to work well with each other on offense in the time they've had together. This fall was supposed to be different: a full training camp with a stable coaching staff and point guard position to get the two stars collaborating.
But now, with Stoudemire sidelined for at least two-three weeks with a knee injury, that possibility is gone. And it is fair to wonder if the two stars will ever get that chance.
Stoudemire has a ruptured cyst, a symptom of an arthritic knee. The troublesome knee had kept Stoudemire out of training camp for the first two weeks, before he played 29 minutes on Friday night. And this diagnosis will take him out of the final days of training camp, along with at least the season's first few games.
The Knicks' plan has officially gone awry. Anthony came to the Knicks midway through the 2010-11 season. The resulting chaos, which saw the Knicks uproot half their team midway through the season, made sense. So did the subsequent period of convalescence that Stoudemire underwent after he hurt his back in the playoffs. That meant an out-of-shape Stoudemire came to an abbreviated training camp in 2011-12.
Then came the ups and downs of the 2011-12 season, from Stoudemire's slow start, to Anthony's hamstring injury, to Linsanity, to another Stoudemire injury to his back, and ultimately, a first-round playoff loss to the Miami Heat.
But both Stoudemire and Anthony ended the year healthy. Anthony played in the Olympics this summer. Stoudemire worked hard to get into better shape, and even worked with Hakeem Olajuwon on his post game. A full preseason beckoned; this would be the best shot the two stars had to work together.
And now it's gone. The new reality will be Carmelo Anthony playing power forward, which is actually a potential boon for the Knicks. His best production last year came playing the position, with Stoudemire out. It has been suggested that the Knicks aree actually better with Stoudemire anchoring the second unit's offense off the bench, and Anthony playing the position as a starter.
But no one really thinks the Knicks, as presently constructed, are a title contender. The real chance they had was to find an offense that is as great as the sum of its parts with an integrated Anthony/Stoudemire attack, forcing defenses to stop a pair of unstoppable offensive forces.
Whether Stoudemire will ever be healthy enough to play a full season again is in doubt. Each day he slides further away from his past form, making it harder to imagine him becoming a primary part of Anthony's offense while he recovers.
How the Knicks fill the lineup in Stoudemire's offense will almost certainly be by going smaller. And on one level, this should help them with things like quickness and maximizing Anthony's mismatches against opposing defenses.
But the fact that so many teams are smaller should only further emphasize what a huge missed opportunity it is for the Knicks to have a dominant Stoudemire and Anthony creating mismatches within the same starting lineup, rather than getting in each other's way. It is the high-reward play that was probably the team's only ticket to championship contention.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
CC Sabathia is heading to Dr. James Andrews for a checkup. The Yankees are hoping his elbow discomfort came from a bone spur, and nothing more.
On the heels of two subpar defensive efforts in the preseason, coach Avery Johnson is concerned about the team's approach.
A strong effort against the Patriots came up just short, 29-26.
An improbable late strike from Eli Manning to Victor Cruz helped the Giants edge the Redskins, 27-23.
A scoreless draw with Sporting Kansas City on Saturday allowed the Red Bulls to qualify for the M.L.S. playoffs. They'll be playing for seeding this Saturday in Philadelphia.