Will STAT boost the Knicks?



Zwerling By Jared Zwerling

The Knicks took care of business on Tuesday night, but as coach Mike Woodson realizes, "In a long playoff series, it comes down to the adjustments."

In many ways, the series is just starting, as each team has won a game. Now, the Knicks could get a boost in Game 3 with the return of Amar'e Stoudemire.

How's that for an adjustment?

Even with the series tied at one game apiece, what's not going to change is this: the Pacers still have skilled size, featuring Roy Hibbert, David West and Tyler Hansbrough, and they're going to continue to exploit that. They did in Game 1.

For starters, Stoudemire's low-post scoring could help counter the Pacers' punch in the paint. He's looked quick and explosive with his moves recently in scrimmages, and he took contact well down low. That's key because during the regular season, Stoudemire would sometimes go to the foul line eight times a game, and he's a career 76.3 percent free throw shooter.

Stoudemire's presence in the low post would give the Knicks another option to generate ball movement, which is still a work in progress for the Knicks in the playoffs in half-court sets. If he draws some double-teams, even better. Let's not forget that Stoudemire is also effective in pick-and-rolls and spotting up from midrange.

Defensively, he can provide help-side protection, allowing Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin to help on pick-and-rolls.

Beyond his on-court abilities, Stoudemire brings important playoff intangibles: attitude and post-play emotional outbursts, matching Chandler and Martin in that regard. A big dunk from STAT will get his guys fired up.

Stoudemire can provide a few minutes of power off the bench in Game, and if he continues to progress from game to game, he will be a "big piece to the puzzle," as Woodson likes to say.

Jared Zwerling covers the Knicks for ESPNNewYork.com


Begley By Ian Begley

This isn't about Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony struggling to play together.

It isn't about Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler stepping on each other's toes, and it has nothing to do with Amar'e taking away minutes from Kenyon Martin.

I think all of those issues are a bit overblown when we talk about Amar'e.

So, don't get me wrong here: I think Amar'e, ultimately, will help the Knicks in the postseason. I just don't see that happening in the Indiana series.

As Mike Woodson knows all too well, it's extremely difficult to stick a star player in your rotation without screwing up the chemistry that's been established without him. And Woodson isn't going to let Stoudemire disrupt the Knicks' chemistry.

He isn't going to play Stoudemire major minutes against the Pacers, which is why I don't see Amar'e making an impact in this series.

That, I think, is the right approach.

Remember, when Stoudemire returned to the floor earlier this season from left knee surgery, he wasn't himself initially.

In his first six games, he averaged nine points and three rebounds in 20 minutes and shot 43.5 percent from the field.

In his next 23 games, Stoudemire scored 15.5 points and grabbed 5.5 rebounds in 23 minutes per game. He hit 60 percent of his field goals.

So I think Stoudemire will need time to get his rhythm back. And I don't see him getting all the way back during the Pacers series.

The best-case scenario for the Knicks is that Stoudemire plays limited minutes against Indiana, gets his feet wet, and is prepared to make an impact in what they hope is a showdown with Miami in the Eastern Conference finals.

Ian Begley covers the Knicks for ESPNNewYork.com