We've spent the last couple of days looking at the big issues facing the Knicks in the second half of the season.
Carmelo Anthony's role in the offense and Jeremy Lin's continued progress as a point guard got the first two spots. Now we'll skip past the need to figure out a workable rotation with a suddenly deep roster and jump right to Amar'e Stoudemire.
There's no easy way to put lipstick on the pig of a first half that Stoudemire turned in for the Knicks. He has struggled in virtually every phase of the game, most notably on the offensive end where he has been a train wreck.
As Seth Rosenthal of Posting and Toasting so perfectly put it, Stoudemire's moves to the basket "have looked a bit like a hand picking up a full juicebox that it expects to be empty" instead of the explosive ones we grew accustomed to last season. The big question now is what's behind this sudden change in game.
Is it a result of the weight he put on in the offseason in an attempt to strengthen his back or does it have to do with his surgically-repaired knees? Are the struggles written off as a hangover from the extended lockout or are we seeing the start of a slow, sad decline?
Stoudemire seems to think it's a result of the added weight and he said Tuesday that he's lost some of that weight while promising a resurgent second half. He told Howard Beck of the New York Times to "stay tuned" when asked if he thought his explosiveness was going to return.
"It was all muscle, which looked good," Stoudemire said of the added weight. “But to play my style of basketball and be a force full-court, fast-break guy that I always played like, maybe shed a few pounds."
Everything out of Stoudemire's mouth was upbeat and brimming with confidence for the year to come. That's pretty much par for the course for the eternally optimistic Stoudemire, but it's certainly better than the alternative.
As nice as it would be to see Stoudemire streaking to the hoop for a dunk that shakes the core of the opposition, the best way forward needs to be about more than bringing back the thunder. He needs to start sinking his midrange jump shots -- he's been abysmal this season -- in order to make defenses respect the outside game and make things easier when he takes trips into the lane.
Anthony's offensive struggles have gotten more attention, but Stoudemire's problems are in some way more alarming. Whereas Anthony spent much of the first half playing a role to which he was ill-suited, Stoudemire's been getting the ball in spots where he was effective last season without converting opportunities
Occasional bursts of effectiveness on defense aside, Stoudemire is only a valuable player because of his ability to light up the scoreboard. If he continues to be a drag on that end, the Knicks are going to be double losers without much chance of making good on the promise they've shown at points this year.
Stoudemire kicked off the idea of a Knicks revival when he signed with the team before last season and proclaimed that the Knicks were back. The second half of this season will go a long way toward deciding whether or not he was a false prophet.