Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.
Today's Burning Question: Can Amar'e Stoudemire return to 2010-11 All-Star form?
Last season didn't go well for a lot of players because the unpredictability of the lockout changed their workout routines. Stoudemire admitted that not being able to interact with the team's training staff put a damper on monitoring his body.
This time around, he took full advantage of the predictable offseason. Here are five reasons why Stoudemire should bounce back, starting with his conditioning:
1. He's in shape. Stoudemire spent nearly every day during the summer doing two-a-days, running in the morning and then doing skills work in the afternoon/evening. Even with all of his traveling, including trips to Paris and Shanghai, he made sure to get in the gym. He says his lower back feels greet (he had a bulging disc last season). When Mike Woodson is asked about STAT these days, he points out how good the power forward looks on the court.
2. He's in better spirits. The loss of his older brother, Hazell, affected Stoudemire last season. Amar'e was visibly down in the locker room, curt with reporters and looked dazed and frustrated at times on the court. Then, the fire extinguisher incident happened in Miami. Stoudemire seemed liked he needed some time away to refocus. Now, he's more at ease and looser with the media -- just like Carmelo Anthony. They both were affected by similar scrutiny last season, from injuries to whether or not they could play together. Now, if those questions come up, they smile and laugh it off.
3. He's back with Felton. And Jason Kidd. And Pablo Prigioni. The three seasoned point guards, who know how to run the pick-and-roll to a tee, will only benefit Stoudemire. They've been already proving that with Tyson Chandler during the preseason. Add STAT, and some Marcus Camby, watch out. That will only help the entire offense generate easier shots. In 2011-12, Stoudemire wasn't able to develop a P&R presence because there was no stability at point guard.
4. He has added "new jewels." That's what Stoudemire calls the post-up and defensive moves he learned from Hakeem Olajuwon. Woodon's talent pool is unique because several players can score out of the pick-and-roll and post. Stoudemire has the potential to be the best at both, and be more effective swatting shots. The different wrinkles in the offense should help the Knicks, who can effectively play big and small, prepare for any opponent and adjust accordingly (with results) during games. STAT could be extra effective if he's used at times at center, where he made his mark in 2010-11, taking advantage of slower defenders.
5. He's still in his prime. While the Knicks are getting a lot attention for having the oldest average age in the league, the team's main rotation is fairly young -- and that includes Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler, who aren't 30 yet. Even with his previous back problems, STAT's scoring abilities still make him one of best big men in the game, and his youth should allow him to recover more quickly from injuries. The key is that he's healthy -- as well as the rest of the team -- come playoff time. The Knicks don't want to have a repeat of last season.
Do you think Stoudemire can return to All-Star form? Leave us your comments below.
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