Should STAT start?
Players accepting their roles is what facilitates championship-caliber teams, and if Amar'e Stoudemire recognizes that, he'll be valuable as a starter.
Right now, the Knicks' starting five needs someone to take on four main roles -- and Stoudemire can.
First, he can replace the struggling Ronnie Brewer, who averaged 2.8 points per game on 25.8 percent shooting in December. Brewer's struggles have allowed defenses to lay off him and take away open looks from his teammates. With Stoudemire, a much better outside shooter, the Knicks will put more pressure on opponents.
Second, Stoudemire will bring another element to the starting lineup -- a post-up game. He's been working on it in practice, and has looked quick with his first step and spin moves. The Knicks need more free throw appearances, and Stoudemire can be that guy. Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler can still be effective on offense with STAT on the block.
Third, the Knicks need a help-side defender to back up Chandler, who is better in one-on-one assignments than Stoudemire. Their opponents are converting 67.7 percent at the rim -- the third-best mark in the NBA. When Chandler gets beat, the Knicks don't have another twin-tower threat early on in games who can swat away shots. Recently, in four of their last five contests, the opposing starting center got off to a hot start.
Fourth, Stoudemire can help boost the Knicks' rebounding. Currently, they're averaging a third-worst 39.8 boards per game. Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace could provide defensive and rebounding support off the bench.
In the past when Anthony and Stoudemire played together, they both stepped on each other's toes as dominant, isolation scorers. Now, while Anthony is clearly an MVP candidate, Stoudemire needs to be a role player. If he obliges, the Knicks' starting five should be fine.
For Stoudemire, it comes down to his mindset and ability to sacrifice -- and he's capable. Hopefully, he stays healthy.
STAT BEST OFF BENCH
Last year, they went 18-21 when both players started.
Is there reason to believe that that record could be better this season, Anthony and Stoudemire's third season together?
Chemistry takes time to develop, and maybe all Anthony and Stoudemire need is a little more time to become the 1-2 punch that James Dolan envisioned when he traded the four key rotation pieces for Anthony in February 2011.
But, really, there's no reason to waste time trying to find out.
It makes the most sense for both the Knicks and Stoudemire if their $100 million man comes off the bench.
Entering play Monday, the Knicks had gotten off to a 21-9 start without Stoudemire. In those 30 games, Anthony has established himself as a matchup nightmare at power forward and early MVP candidate.
If Stoudemire returned to the starting lineup, that would force Anthony to move back to small forward, negating his advantage against bigger, slower defenders.
But it's more than just Anthony and Stoudemire.
Stoudemire's production dips when he's on the floor with with Tyson Chandler.
Amar'e averages 31 points on 56% shooting per 48 minutes when he's on the floor without Tyson; he scores just 22 points on 44 percent shooting when he's on the floor with Tyson.
The problem with the Chandler/Stoudemire pairing is that it takes away Stoudemire's opportunities on the pick-and-roll.
Chandler serves as the Knicks' primary screener.
Stoudemire is left to serve as an elbow jump shooter.
Just another reason for Stoudemire to play off the bench when he returns.