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Thursday, November 8, 2012
Opening Tip: What should STAT's role be?

By Jared Zwerling

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

Today's Burning Question: It's the question everyone keeps posing: When Amar'e Stoudemire returns, should he come off the bench?

There is a strong belief that Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony can't play together, and they need to be separated. And now that the Knicks are on a roll, many fans are demanding, Amar'e should come off the bench!

But what's being overlooked is this: It's not necessarily about Anthony and Stoudemire playing off each other; it's about how they both can be effective on the court at the same time. And this time around, they can.

Here's why: For starters, they've never played with three seasoned point guards. Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni will help Anthony and Stoudemire get in the right spots to score. Also, the team's focus on spacing and ball movement will limit Anthony and Stoudemire's dead isolations and prevent them from crowding the court.

Although many fans want to see Anthony remain at the 4, he still can be the primary post player. Even though Stoudemire worked with Hakeem Olajuwon in the offseason, Melo is still the team's best threat in the low and mid post. By setting him up there and decreasing his distance to operate, you're also saving him some energy for the defensive end.

With Anthony's untouched positioning, Stoudemire could be the main roller or popper because of his money midrange jump shot. Then Tyson Chandler could be set on the weak side for the dish inside, putback or offensive rebound. Chandler is better on the boards than Stoudemire.

It's about player location, and the floor-general experience will only improve Anthony and Stoudemire's on-court relationship. Most importantly, STAT, as Anthony has shown, needs to buy in consistently on defense. It takes one player's breakdown to lead to an open shot.

The one position Stoudemire would be best suited off the bench is actually backup center. He did his most damage in New York as the starting center in 2010-11, exposing slower mismatches on offense and defense. It's the positive transition Kevin Garnett made, and what Chris Bosh is doing this season. Mike Woodson could even start Felton, Kidd, Anthony, Chandler and Stoudemire, as Chandler has the mobility to guard 4s.

But Woodson repeatedly has said Stoudemire is his starting power forward. Also, STAT is not ready to give in to the "bench player" label at this point in his career. He still believes he's in his prime and wants to cash in as the $100 million face of the franchise -- the face that's the grand finale in player introductions at the Garden.

What do you think Stoudemire's role should be when he comes back? Leave us your comments below.

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