Let's get the question on everybody's mind out of the way right up front: What does signing Amar'e Stoudemire mean for LeBron James?
There seem to be three potential answers to this question. One is that James told the Knicks he wasn't coming so they decided to move on and do what they needed to do in James's absence. Another is that James told the Knicks he was open to the idea of playing with Amar'e and that spurred the Knicks to put the finisihing touches on the deal Monday. And the third option is that the Knicks have no idea what LeBron thinks of their move and they simply acted because they can't risk getting shut out because James is having a harder time picking a new team than the girl from "Twilight" has picking between Dracula and a werewolf.
The first and third options seem like the most plausible ones, although the arrival of Stoudemire has certainly given a boost to flagging optimism around these parts. That's what happens when you sign the most talented player to wear one of your uniforms in a decade. There's a lot of negatives thrown around about Stoudemire's defense and rebounding and it's true that he's a subpar defensive rebounder. Defensively, it all depends on the comparison. If you're putting him up against Dwight Howard, he's coming up short but compared to David Lee it's like Reagan's Star Wars system was just installed at Madison Square Garden.
The key to this deal was Stoudemire's ability to score, both in volume and efficiency, and not his defense or rebounding. Mike D'Antoni has specific things he wants to do on offense and doing them requires three things: Outside shooters, an inside presence who can score on the move and a point guard. He's got two of the three now and the need for the third leads us to the second big question raised by the Stoudemire move.
Is it enough?
The answer to this is obvious. Of course it isn't enough but why would anyone think they're done.
There might not be another Steve Nash out there waiting for D'Antoni, but there are other point guards capable of running the pick and roll and leading an offense with more weapons than in years past. There are defensive minded centers who can plug in alongside Stoudemire and block a shot to set off the break. There are wing players who can fill it up -- expect to hear a lot about Carmelo Anthony -- and assorted other types that are now realistic options because the Knicks have a player to build around.
What's funny is that the same people who laughed at the Knicks' chances at landing LeBron because of how thin the roster was entering the offseason are the same people shrugging off the significance of Amar'e because he alone doesn't guarantee championships. It's pretty clear that no one player can guarantee anything come the postseason unless he's got some fine running mates alongside him.
That's called team building, something that has been in short supply in New York for the last decade. It's the longest-running and most meaningful criticism of this entire dark era and it stopped being a relevant concern the second Stoudemire put his name on a dotted line. The page has turned. If Amar'e is jumping the gun by declaring them back in the sense of contending for titles, he isn't jumping the gun in terms of announcing to the NBA that the Knicks are no longer a laughingstock run by men with no clue what they're doing.
That feels mighty good.