- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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It looks like Amar'e Stoudemire will miss the rest of the regular season.
The only thing Knicks fans can do now is hope New York plays like the team that started the year 21-9 with Stoudemire out due to injury.
It might seem harsh to ask so soon after the news of Stoudemire's latest setback with his knee, but it's worth considering: Can the Knicks be better without Stoudemire?
SURE THEY CAN: Bottom line? The Knicks were one of the NBA’s hottest teams while Stoudemire rehabbed a left knee injury that kept him out of the lineup until New Year’s Day.
They averaged 102.6 points per game with an average scoring differential of plus-6.1 points per game with Stoudemire out.
With Stoudemire in the fold, the Knicks went 16-13, averaged 97.2 points per game and had a scoring differential of plus-2.2.
Of course, it would be incorrect to correlate the 16-13 record directly to Stoudemire's presence. The Knicks suffered through several injuries (Raymond Felton's finger, Rasheed Wallace's foot) after Stoudemire returned. He also can't be held responsible for their poor outside shooting over that stretch.
But with Stoudemire out, Carmelo Anthony might have the opportunity to play more minutes at power forward. Anthony -- who has missed three games with a knee problem of his own -- established himself as an early-season MVP candidate in the first two months by dominating against bigger, slower power forwards. Can he reignite the campaign with Stoudemire out?
Also, it's worth wondering if the Knicks' defense improves with Kenyon Martin filling in for Stoudemire, who is widely recognized as a poor defender.
NO WAY! THEY'RE BETTER WITH AMAR'E: Mike Woodson called Stoudemire's injury a "major loss" for the Knicks because Stoudemire is a "big piece of the puzzle." It might sound like coach-speak, but Woodson was speaking the truth.
In 29 games this season, Stoudemire averaged 14.2 points and five rebounds in just 23.5 minutes, shooting 58 percent from the field.
In recent weeks, Stoudemire had established himself as a strong low-post threat off the bench -- and that's what the Knicks might miss most.
"When you start playing playoff basketball, you need some post-up play ... [and] that's where Amar'e was so valuable for us," Woodson said.
How do the Knicks replace that post play? Anthony is a threat with his back to the basket, but no one else on the roster can score consistently in the post.
The Knicks can offset the loss of paint points with 3-pointers, but without a post player to draw the defense, it's easier for opponents to defend the perimeter. And the bench scoring will certainly take a hit with Stoudemire out.
Here's something else to consider: The Knicks score 40 percent of their points in the paint when Stoudemire's on the floor. They scored just 32 percent of their points in the paint when Stoudemire's on the bench. That's an indication that his post presence will not easily be replaced and an indication that this Knicks team might not be better off without him.
Question: What do you think? Can the Knicks be better without STAT?
Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
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