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Opening Tip: Can Amar'e improve on D?

1/16/2013

Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.

Today's Burning Question: Amar'e Stoudemire has vowed to improve on defense. Do you think, in his 11th season, he can become a better defender?

Amar'e Stoudemire is 6-foot-11 with a 7-1 wingspan, a frame you'd think would allow him to dominate on defense.

Through the first 10 seasons of his career, though, Stoudemire gained a reputation as one of the poorer defenders in the league.

"That's been his main drawback," one Eastern Conference scout said recently. "It seems like he's not always committed."

The Knicks' $100 million man is out to change that this season.

He has said repeatedly that his biggest priority this year is to improve as a defender.

"I'm focused on defense," Stoudemire said Monday. "That's my main focus right now is getting back defensively.

"Offense is a part of my DNA. I can't get rid of that. But defensively is where I'm focusing on improving. I have been improving by watching film and seeing my efforts defensively (during games). I have been getting a lot better and I want to continue that progress."

Stoudemire, who underwent knee surgery in October, made his season debut on New Year's Day and has played seven games thus far. That's a small sample size, and it can be difficult to quantify individual defense with statistics, but the numbers so far suggest that Stoudemire is still having a tough time on defense.

His defensive rating -- or opponents' points per 100 possession while Stoudemire is on the floor -- is 110, or one fewer than his career worst.

The Knicks allow six fewer points per 100 possessions when Stoudemire is on the bench and have been outscored by 22 points in Stoudemire's 145 minutes.

Their net rating -- the difference between points scored and points allowed per 100 possessions when Stoudemire is on and off the floor -- is minus-13. That's the second-worst net rating on the team.

It's early and there's plenty of time for Stoudemire to make strides on the defensive end. It's also worth noting that if anyone can turn him into a better defender, it's Woodson.

But, given what Stoudemire has done throughout his career, you have to wonder if his poor defensive habits can be reversed.

QUESTION: After 10 years in the league, is it too late for STAT to improve his defense?

Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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