Amare Stoudemire has shown little explosiveness at the rim this season.
It seems like everyone has a theory about Amare Stoudemire's first-half struggles.
Stoudemire offered a few of his own on Tuesday.
The New York Knicks forward believes that an offseason back injury has led indirectly to his subpar performance this season.
Stoudemire spent most of the lockout rehabilitating a pulled back muscle he suffered in the 2011 postseason. So he was unable to play five-on-five basketball for about six months.
Stoudemire also added roughly 15 pounds of muscle in the offseason to strengthen his back. The extra weight may have robbed him of some his quickness, he says.
"I think there's no excuses. I don't make any excuses. I'm just giving you guys the facts on the reason why I maybe (I started) off a little slow (start) this season," he said during a post-practice interview on Tuesday.Al Bello/Getty Images
Despite his early struggles, Stoudemire says he's feeling great now.
Through 35 games, Stoudemire is averaging 17.5 points per game on 44 percent shooting -- his lowest totals in both categories since his rookie year. They are a far cry from the numbers Stoudemire produced last season (25.3 points per game on 50 percent shooting.)
In addition, the 29-year-old has shown little explosiveness near the rim -- a career-high 9.6 percent of his shots have been blocked.
Stoudemire believes that all the time he spent away from the court during the lockout has affected his rhythm on the floor. He played just one game of five-on-five -- a charity basketball game on Oct. 9 in Miami -- before the lockout ended in early December.
So he's been forced to find his feel for the game on the fly.
"That's the longest I've ever … been away from the game, so it's a minor adjustment for me. But I feel great now," Stoudemire said.
The nine-year veteran entered the season weighing 260 pounds -- carrying 15 pounds of extra muscle to strengthen his back. His normal playing weight is around 245 pounds. Stoudemire said on Tuesday that he now weighs 250 pounds and his goal is to get down to 245 in the next week or so.
"I wanted to get stronger, I wanted to definitely heal my back," Stoudemire said in explaining his decision to add muscle to his frame. "From a health standpoint I feel great. But now it's time to tune it up a little bit and play great basketball."
Some have speculated that Stoudemire's history of knee injuries have caught up to him. Stoudemire underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee in late 2005. He had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in April 2006. But the six-time All Star insists he's healthy. Others have suggested that he can't play effectively with Carmelo Anthony. But both Anthony and Stoudemire have routinely dismissed that theory.
"It's definitely a rhythm thing," Stoudemire said. "So now I feel great."
Mike D'Antoni said Tuesday that he believes that some of Stoudemire's issues are 'psychological.'
"I think a lot of it is he’s sitting around maybe watching Melo, maybe watching the team, (the fact that) we didn’t have a point guard," D'Antoni said.
The Knicks struggled to find a replacement for point guard Chauncey Billups in the first two months of the season. Billups was cut via the amnesty clause to create enough cap space to sign Tyson Chandler.
Neither Toney Douglas, Iman Shumpert nor Mike Bibby could fill the role at point guard. Stoudemire's opportunities in the run the pick and roll suffered due to the Knicks' void at point guard. Also, Chandler took over as the primary screener on pick and rolls, robbing Stoudemire of the few easy opportunities at the rim created by New York's lead guards.
In addition to his on-court issues, Stoudemire missed four games last month to mourn the death of his older brother, Hazell. Many expected Stoudemire's numbers to increase when he returned from bereavement leave on Feb. 14 because he was sharing the floor with Jeremy Lin, a true point guard.
But Stoudemire's struggles continued in February. He's scored more than 20 points just once in seven games with Lin.
Still, D'Antoni remains optimistic that his power forward can turn things around in the second half.
"He understands he’s got to attack. He’s got to be a big part of this," D'Antoni said. "We can’t win without him being 100 percent and going like last year. I’m betting he has a big second half."
So is Stoudemire.
He was asked on Tuesday if he could get his explosiveness back in the final two months of the season.
"Stay tuned," he said.
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