- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- You're a six-time All-Star with a $100 million contract. You've started 97 percent of the games you've suited up over 10 years in the NBA.
Due to circumstances largely outside of your control, your head coach is asking you to accept a role off the bench.
What do you do?
Do you put up a fight and demand to start, team chemistry be damned?
Or do you swallow your pride, take a seat and hope for the best?
Amar'e Stoudemire chose the latter.
And, so far, it couldn't have worked out better for Stoudemire or the Knicks.
In his first month back following arthroscopic knee surgery, Stoudemire has thrived in his role as a reserve for the first-place Knicks.
The 30-year-old power forward has scored in double figures in seven straight games, hitting 37 of 57 shots in that span.
The Knicks have won five of seven during that stretch.
And Stoudemire's made an imprint on each of the victories. The latest example was his 14-point outing against Orlando on Wednesday. Stoudemire made all seven of his shot attempts in 21 minutes.
"He's accepting his role," Mike Woodson said after the game.
And he's done so without hesitation.
“I didn’t really put much thought into it all. I had confidence in Coach Woodson to know what it takes for this team to win," Stoudemire said on Tuesday. "These guys (the Knicks coaching staff) study the game twice as much as any player does and (Woodson) understands what it takes for us to be successful. Once the coaching staff presented me with the opportunity to better the team, I was totally open to it."
Stoudemire has averaged 12.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in 22 minutes for the Knicks (28-15).
If the team continues to win with Stoudemire as a reserve, his drama-free shift to the bench will be one of the season's most important developments.
"For him to accept a role like that, a player of his caliber, everybody knows his resume, for him to accept that is very professional of him," Carmelo Anthony said.
"I just think he senses a sense of urgency in terms of our team and the makeup of our team, that we have to win now," Woodson said. "...He’s on board, he’s trying to help us win and it doesn’t matter what the situation is. He’s going to do whatever it takes to help us win."
His play of late has also given credence to the idea that the Stoudemire-Anthony-Tyson Chandler trio can thrive together. The three combined to score 18 of the Knicks' 28 points in the third quarter on Wednesday to help New York take control against Orlando.
"Everyone has expanded their game for the betterment of the team and wanting to win," Stoudemire said of the Knicks' big three.
It's easy to forget now, but Stoudemire was the first star to take on the challenge of turning the moribund Knicks around when he signed with New York in 2010.
If not for Stoudemire, Anthony may never have cited the Knicks as a preferred destination during Melodrama in 2011. Tyson Chandler says he wouldn't have agreed to the sign-and-trade in New York in 2011 if Stoudemire wasn't in the fold.
"He started this whole thing," Chandler said in September. "The reason why we're here is because of him. The reason why I was willing to be a Knick is because of him. The reason why Melo was willing to be traded here was because of him. So I feel like we all have a little thanks to give to Amar'e."
When Stoudemire came to New York, he did so with one goal in mind: make the Knicks relevant again.
At the time, he probably never thought that he'd do so while coming off the bench.
But, three years later, Stoudemire, to his credit, has quietly accepted his new role.
"I'm willing to do whatever it takes to win," he said.
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7dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann