Commentary

Knicks must trade STAT this summer

It'll be difficult to find deal, but 'Bockers can't let Amare compromise another series

Updated: May 3, 2012, 2:51 PM ET
By Ian O'Connor | ESPNNewYork.com

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The question was whether the New York Knicks can trade Amare Stoudemire in the offseason, and the conversation with a high-ranking executive of a playoff team started in a predictable place.

"No," he said Wednesday. "No way."

The executive, a good one, cited the standard reasons why Stoudemire is an immovable summertime part. His injury history. The size of his contract. The lack of insurance on his knees. The diminished athleticism and presence around the rim.

"You'd be taking a tremendous risk with Amare," the executive said, "and the feeling around the league is he's living on borrowed time with his knees. I just don't think anyone would take him."

Only then was it repeated that Stoudemire, $100 million man, isn't owed $100 million over five years anymore, but $64.4 million over three. It was mentioned that Stoudemire is only 29, and that Gilbert Arenas and Rashard Lewis were traded for each other, meaning it only requires one sucker, maybe two, to move any player and make any deal.

It was stated that the teams scheduled to be way under the salary cap -- the lottery likes of New Orleans, Cleveland, Sacramento, Portland, and Brooklyn, and the winning likes of Boston and Indiana -- might use their flexibility to gamble that Stoudemire will stay relatively healthy and give them some needed starpower and size.

Fifteen minutes into the conversation, the executive was sold.

"Now that we're talking through it," he said, "yes, I think Amare can be traded. If Gilbert Arenas can get traded, anyone can get traded. Every year there's a guy you think can't get moved, or a free agent asking for a figure you think he'll never get, and it always happens because it only takes one team."

[+] EnlargeAmare Stoudemire
AP Photo/Lynne SladkyIt's time to send Amare Stoudemire on his way.

So there it is: The Knicks need to find that team for Stoudemire.

They need to trade Stoudemire, a guy who fit with the Mike D'Antoni Knicks of Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler and Raymond Felton, a guy who no longer fits with the Mike Woodson Knicks of Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler.

At the Knicks' practice facility Wednesday, Stoudemire addressed his decision to use a Game 2 loss to the Miami Heat as an excuse to shatter the glass protecting an AmericanAirlines Arena fire extinguisher, leaving his left hand looking like something half-eaten in a zombie film.

His hand heavily bandaged, Stoudemire appeared before the news media wearing a shirt that read, "Marked Man," the first sign that he still didn't get it. The powerless forward did too much explaining and rationalizing, not nearly enough apologizing.

Stoudemire said that he just took a careless swipe at the wall, that he "just wanted to make some noise." He said the fire extinguisher case was "85 percent metal and a 2 percent strip of glass," leaving an unlucky and unexplained 13 percent and an unlucky and unwitting victim to bleed all over the place.

Stoudemire said the fans have "the wrong perception of what happened," and that he didn't mistake the glass case for a punching bag. If Stoudemire talked long enough, he surely would've explained he was reaching down to pick up a fallen child when he injured his hand.

"It's disappointing to my teammates," he said. "I really didn't want to let them down any."

But he did let them down for the second postseason in a row. Last year, Stoudemire cost the Knicks any chance of challenging the Celtics in the first round when he injured himself pulling a silly layup-line stunt before Game 2.

This time around, Stoudemire cost the Knicks any chance of pushing the Heat to six or seven by throwing a dangerous fit after Game 2. He immediately offered what appeared to be a sincere apology on Twitter, but he's been awfully low on contrition ever since.

His teammates weren't eager to call him out after practice, nor was his coach, Woodson, who marched into the job talking about accountability, accountability, and more accountability. Woodson didn't hesitate to confront his stars in Atlanta, and during this regular season he proved he didn't share D'Antoni's fear of shouting down the Anthonys and Stoudemires.

But Woodson has shown weakness here. Stoudemire's action should've inspired some anger from his boss, and yet there was Woodson on Wednesday promising to show his player "all the love and support I can give him."

The Knicks can't give Stoudemire a chance to compromise a third consecutive postseason, not when he's half the dominator he used to be, and not when he's struggled so much with the ball and team in Anthony's hands.

"If I'm the Knicks," the executive said, "I'd do everything I possibly could to get Stoudemire off the roster. Unless you were going to play Amare at the five, and they have already (Tyson) Chandler there, it makes sense because Anthony is better at the 4 than he is at the 3.

"You could try to buy Amare out, but it's harder to buy out guys who are seeing their own mortality. So I think you're left with trying to trade him. It's not going to be easy, but I think it's possible."

Glen Grunwald, newly minted GM, has to earn his full scholarship now. He helped his own cause by signing Chandler, Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak, and by acting on Jim Dolan's desire to sign J.R. Smith.

But this will be Grunwald's ultimate test, his improbable (but not impossible) mission to accomplish. In December 2010, Orlando agreed to take on Arenas and Washington agreed to take on Lewis, who made $22 million this year and who has nearly $24 million coming to him next year.

Even in his current state, Stoudemire is a much better player than Lewis, who was older (31) at the time of his trade. Amare had his worst season since his rookie year and still averaged 17.5 points and 7.8 rebounds; Lewis hasn't averaged 15 or more points since 2009.

So the Knicks can find some fabulously rich and restless owner to take a shot on Stoudemire while returning a good-not-great player who would work inside the margins of Melomania. Oh, and this should be made clear: All in all, Amare isn't a bad guy, just a bad fit.

He should be thanked for the pre-Melo memories, and sent on his way.

Ian O'Connor

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Ian O'Connor has won numerous national awards as a sports columnist and is the author of three books, including the bestseller, "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter." ESPN Radio broadcasts "The Ian O'Connor Show" every Sunday from 7 to 9 a.m. ET. Follow Ian on Twitter »

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