Before all the leftovers disappear from the refrigerator and we're forced to actually contemplate a meal without copious amounts of sweet potatoes and stuffing, let's take a moment to give thanks one more time to Amar'e Stoudemire.
There was lots of gratitude thrown in his direction back in July when he decided to bring his talents to Seventh Avenue, but it's time for a revival. The Knicks have ridden five straight wins to get back to .500, with this weekend's double-dip giving them a shot at a 10-8 record that would feel mighty good heading into December.
Stoudemire's not the only person to credit with this turn of events, but he's got an awful lot to do with how well things are working in Knicksland right now. It's not just that he's leading the team in scoring and rebounding, especially since that rebounding crown comes pretty much by default on the current roster.
It has to do with the way he's restored star power to the franchise. That means a big name that draws eyeballs from fans, other players and the media, but it also means an increased amount of respect. That's easiest to see when Stoudemire gets the ball down low, turns and draws a foul while shooting. Some of these are calls that any player would get, but plenty of them are the benefit of the NBA's star system. Complain about different standards if you like, but it is awfully nice to see some of those whistles going the Knicks' way.
One of them came with the Knicks up one on the Bobcats with 1:19 left to play on Wednesday night. There was definitely contact from Tyrus Thomas, but it's contact that goes unwhistled on plenty of occasions when the guy shooting isn't a big name. Those free throws put the Knicks up three, but the game was still in a lot of doubt when Amar'e rejected a Stephen Jackson dunk attempt moments later.
That's not something where name brand helps you. It was a purely instinctual defensive play and Stoudemire has made a habit out of making such plays in the first 16 games. That block was his sixth of the night and his current average of 2.19 a game is good for seventh in the league. No one expected much defensive contribution from Stoudemire, so this truly is the gravy on the little Thanksgiving meal we're cooking up for him right now.
And if he leads the Knicks to wins over the Hawks and Pistons this weekend, it will be time to get cracking on that Christmas list.