Should STAT start?
MAKE USE OF STAT'S HOT STARTS
Amar'e Stoudemire has developed into one of the most efficient scorers in the NBA, and he has made improvements defensively. Even with an enforced cap of 30 minutes per game from the New York Knicks' medical staff, he played well on both ends of the floor in increased minutes (32) Monday night.
In fact, that night Mike Woodson used Stoudemire -- not J.R. Smith -- as the sixth man for the first time all season. "STAT" checked in just four minutes into the game.
So why not just start him at this point? That makes the most sense.
First of all, Carmelo Anthony admitted after the Knicks knocked off the Cleveland Cavaliers that his right knee, which he injured during the game, had been bothering him for a couple of weeks. So the smart move would be to sit him Wednesday against the Pistons -- a team the Knicks have already beaten three times this season. Then, Stoudemire could fill in well as the initial inside scorer, which brings me to my second point:
STAT has a knack for playing well immediately after checking in to the game. Take the third quarter Monday night, for example, when he replaced Anthony in the lineup. In some of the team's first few possessions, STAT had an inside layup, a dunk and an aggressive defensive move that led to a jump ball, and then grabbed some key rebounds. In the period, the Knicks outscored the Cavs 21-13 after trailing at halftime by 12 points.
If Stoudemire eventually starts alongside Anthony and Tyson Chandler, they have shown they can play together this season. This play midway through the first quarter Monday night highlights that: Chandler came to set a screen on Melo, who passed the ball to a cutting Chandler, who then found STAT streaking from the baseline for a monster jam.
While the bench without Stoudemire would be missing its go-to post presence, now that Marcus Camby and Kenyon Martin are both available for interior defense, the veteran big men should help the Knicks stay in front of opponents after strong starts from the big three offensive threats.
So go ahead and start STAT. The Knicks won't be losing as much as we might think.
Jared Zwerling covers the Knicks for ESPNNewYork.com.
STAT IS JUST FINE WHERE HE IS
Start STAT? Slow down, Jared.
Amar'e has been making an instant impact this season, which has been a huge benefit for the Knicks late in the first quarter and in the second.
But Stoudemire's strong starts are a product of his coming off the bench. So why switch things up?
Stoudemire is taking advantage of matchups against the opposing team's second unit, meaning he's playing against big men who aren't good enough to start.
Can he be as successful against first-unit bigs? Sure.
But here's something else to think about: Putting STAT in the starting five would force Carmelo Anthony to move to small forward.
Anthony has thrived this season as the Knicks' power forward, taking advantage of mismatches against bigger, slower players at the position.
So starting STAT could have an adverse affect on Anthony.
Also, if Stoudemire is in the starting five, it means extended minutes for the trio of him, Anthony and Tyson Chandler.
This trio has shown flashes of success on the offensive end this season but remains suspect on defense.
That's one reason Mike Woodson is hesitant to use Stoudemire, Chandler and Anthony on the floor together late in games.
Which brings up another aspect surrounding the whole "Start STAT" movement.
As Woodson has said again and again, he's less concerned with who starts the game than with who finishes it.
So the more relevant debate is: Should Stoudemire finish games?
I think so.
But that's an entirely different debate for a different day.
Ian Begley covers the Knicks for ESPNNewYork.com.