There are going to be a lot of people who watched last night's Knicks game thinking to themselves, "Why did the Knicks pay max money to Amar'e Stoudemire to do the same things David Lee could have done for less money?"
It seems like a reasonable question. After watching 48 minutes of Lee catching the ball on pick and rolls for easy plays at the rim while Stoudemire had to fight tooth and nail to create his own shots, only the most diehard Donnie Walsh supporters would be able to find no fault with the man's plan of attack. Stoudemire isn't getting the ball in good position, he isn't working a two-man game with either Toney Douglas or Raymond Felton and that leads to a lot of turnovers because he has to do a lot of dribbling to work himself into position to score.
That's a problem, even on nights when Stoudemire scores 33 points, gets to the line at will and does everything in his power to dominate the fourth quarter. People will harp on his two missed free throws with 45 seconds to play, always galling even if he'd be money at the line to that point, but focusing on the fact that the Knicks passed on getting him the ball on several key fourth quarter possessions to take needless threes and other contested buckets. And when they did get Amar'e the ball, at least 15 feet away from the bucket every single time, the rest of the team would just stand around and watch as if the Warriors were removing the top of the Ark of the Covenant under the basket.
Call that an Amar'e problem if you like, but it seemed much more obvious that the Knicks miss Lee a lot less than they miss Stephon Curry. Passing on Brandon Jennings is something Walsh deserves real scorn for doing, but the thought that Curry was snatched away from us one pick before he would have become a Knick seems destined to be a "What If?" for the ages. He ran the offense like a seasoned vet and understands how to work with his forward to get each of them buckets of points.
Maddening stuff that's made all the more frustrating becaue you know that this is part of a learning process for a team that has been together for a blink of an eye. Your brain tells you to be patient because Felton seems to be up to the task of running the offense and Danilo Gallinari has to start shooting better, two things which will make Stoudemire all the more dangerous in the weeks to come and will mean that they'll actually be able to hold on to win home games they lead in the fourth quarter. They're only 1-3 on that front so far, a record that is clearly not good enough.
Your heart and eyes work differently, however. Your eyes see the team playing dumb on offense and lazy on defense. Those traits are easy to recognize because we've been seeing them for each of the last 10 years as the Knicks have squandered games. The heart, broken so many times, feels the familiar pain and wants to give up before allowing itself to be broken one more time. Patience isn't a virtue that particular muscle has space for and the Knicks have long ago exhausted its supply.
For now, the mind wins out and growing pains are added to our already outsized Knicks ulcers. We're not sure how much longer everyone's going to hold out, however.