Amar'e Stoudemire has no intention of going through another season without any playoffs.
And Stoudemire says if he is healthy next season, the Knicks can still rebuild and make the playoffs.
“Not making the playoffs is not an option,” Stoudemire said on Sunday. “[Another losing season is] not an option for us. We’re definitely looking to make the playoffs every year.
“This year’s been a struggle,” he continued. “But if I return healthy and ready to go, I’m sure we’ll make the playoffs.”
Stoudemire is entering the final year of his contract worth $23.4 million next season. The 31-year-old big man is averaging 11.9 points and 5.0 rebounds. He has played in 63 games so far this season, his most games played since his first season with the Knicks in 2010-11, when he appeared in 78 games.
While this season’s results have been incredibly frustrating for Stoudemire from a team standpoint, the big man is happy with how his knees and health held up.
“The positive thing from it, from my standpoint, I felt healthy all year,” Stoudemire said. “Back to my health. So it feels great.”
Mike Woodson kept Stoudemire’s minutes to an average of 22.6 a game and rested him periodically. That seems to have benefited Stoudemire here late in the season. He is averaging 16.4 points and 6.3 rebounds in 19 games in March and April, leaving an impression on Phil Jackson.
“We’re all happy to see Amar'e have a resurgence here,” Jackson said earlier this month. “It’s been a long, hard struggle for him, rehabbing and trying to get himself ready for this opportunity, and we’re happy to see that.”
Stoudemire knows Jackson will try to implement big changes in the coming months, as much as the Knicks president can given the roster and salary cap restrictions.
“I’m not Phil Jackson,” Stoudemire said when asked what changes could be in store for the Knicks. “I can’t really make those type of decisions. My job is to stay optimistic and still be the leader of this team and one of the captains, and just kind of keep everybody motivated.
“This summer’s going to be very important for all of us to return in top shape. And with a mindset of becoming a student and being able to master our philosophy on both ends of the court. Whatever the strategy is, we gotta get to the point where we buy into it from the beginning and we gotta try to master it before playoffs.”
From the moment Jackson was introduced as the Knicks’ newest savior, the Zen Master has talked about wanting the Knicks to play system basketball. Jackson will likely bring in someone from his Triangle tree to install the system.
Jackson also could sign players familiar with the system like Lamar Odom, as ESPN’s Marc Stein recently reported.
Stoudemire believes he has shown Jackson what he is capable of doing next season.
“My game speaks for itself,” Stoudemire said. “I don’t have to toot my own horn. I play extremely hard and I work hard to return back to my dominant self."
“It could be a lot of changes,” he added of next season’s roster. “That’s the unknown factor. I can’t control things that’s out of my control. What I can do is continue to work hard and get stronger and even healthier and even better as a player. That’s my goal going into the offseason.”