Amar'e Stoudemire's Summer of Self-Improvement

Stoudemire has been working on defense and post moves during the offseason

By Josh Alper
|  Wednesday, Aug 22, 2012  |  Updated 11:11 AM EDT
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Amar'e Stoudemire's Summer of Self-Improvement

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Stoudemire doesn't need any help when it comes to getting excited.

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Amar'e Stoudemire has always talked a good game.

From the moment he signed with the Knicks and charmed the pants off the city, Stoudemire's been able to work the microphone with a deftness that isn't really in evidence when Carmelo Anthony meets the media. That's helped him avoid some of the scorn directed at Melo -- don't expect Amar'e's quick dismissal of Jeremy Lin to garner the attention Melo got for accurately pointing out the ridiculousness of the contract Lin signed in Houston -- even though there's no reasonable way to argue which player did more for the Knicks last season.

But he hasn't always been so successful. Stoudemire said he was ready to rock last season, but his play carried more rust than a tireless jalopy on cinder blocks in the front yard. And that was just the start of a year filled with one disappointment after another.

So Stoudemire's going back to what works and talking up a very good game about all of the improvements he's made during the offseason. Stoudemire spent a couple of weeks working with Hakeem Olajuwon on his post game in hopes of adding a little Dream Shake to an offensive game that increasingly relied on jump shots.

"There are so many moves that I picked up from Hakeem," he said. "I mean, just developing my post game has been phenomenal for me. When I came out of high school, I was just thrown the ball and they said, 'Do what you do best.' I never got a chance to develop my game, as far as a post player. So now, with working with Hakeem, it's going to be a great advantage for me."

Color us dubious. Olajuwon's talent in the post needs no qualifiers, but his tutoring of players like D.J. Mbenga, Hasheem Thabeet and Robin Lopez hasn't resulted in a new wave of post players dominating games during the season.

That's OK, though, because the Knicks don't need Stoudemire to turn into Olajuwon. They just need him to look something like the player he was in 2010-2011 and to find a way to complement Anthony's game in a way that doesn't call to mind two raccoons wrestling in a pillowcase.

But a post game for the ages isn't the only thing Stoudemire's got in the hopper to make this season a happier one. He's also going to be bringing the heat defensively.

"Defense is always the key to win championships, and that's something that I'm dedicated on also, to become a much, much better defensive player," Stoudemire said. "And it's going to happen. It's just a matter of preparation and practice, and just getting that chemistry down on that end of the court."

We've heard this exact talk from Stoudemire before. It sounds good, but the results haven't matched up with the promised dedication.

How much work does it take to actually realize that a key to defense is staying close enough to your man to stop him from putting the ball in the basket anyway? Perhaps that's something else no one bothered to teach him coming out of high school, although one would imagine he would have recognized everyone else on the court doing it at some point during his career.

Stoudemire's desire to win and ability to make emphatic statements about it has never been up for debate. His health, ability to play different styles and decision-making on and off the court are more easily assailed.

If Stoudemire can make changes to the latter trio instead of just talking about them, then it will be cause to get excited about the Knicks' prospects for the year to come. Until then, it's just something to fill the time.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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