In Gotham City, Batman always rules while Robin plays second fiddle. Batman owns Wayne Enterprise and Wayne Manor, has the coolest Mancave, and drives the Batmobile. Do you ever see Robin driving the Batmobile? I don’t think so. The unwritten rule of Gotham implies that Batman never has to take a backseat to anyone.
When it comes to the New York Knicks, the same fictitious law applies. Since the arrival of Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks have become HIS team. Melo takes the majority of the shots, he’s the No. 1 option on offense, and he’s the main attraction at Madison Square Garden. So, where does Amare Stoudemire fit in the Knicks’ playbill? Because ‘Melo is such a strong figure on and off the court, Amare has been snubbed like a Hollywood supporting actor. When you watch the Knicks, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out who is Batman and who is Robin. But this wasn’t the case last season when the offense went through Amare.
As The Man, he averaged 25 points per game, taking almost 20 shots per game and shooting 50% from the field. He also gave more of an effort on the defensive end, as he blocked 1.9 shots. Stoudemire was such a force his name was brought up in the MVP race.
How things have changed in just a few short months.
Stoudemire has lost his starring role on the team and now relegated to the supporting cast. All those plays called for Stoudemire have been redirected to Anthony. All those isolation sets that were drawn up for Stoudemire are now being called for Anthony. Through the first quarter of the 2011-12 season, Stoudemire’s shot attempts are down (from 19 to 15) and his scoring average has taken a huge hit (down from 25 to 18). Meanwhile, Anthony leads the team with 20 shots attempts per game and averaging nearly 24 points, which easily tops the team.
When the Knicks acquired Anthony from Denver, coach Mike D’Antoni thought he could work in both ‘Melo and Amare in his player-friendly offense. Instead, Anthony and Stoudemire are competing for shots in D’Antoni’s system. Anthony is gobbling up all the best shots, leaving Stoudemire with the crummy ones. So far, New York is not big enough to house two superstars with giant egos.
Last season when Stoudemire was heavily featured and he had a decent point guard in Raymond Felton to feed him the ball off screen-and-rolls, the Knicks offense was clicking on all cylinders. This season, the Knicks’ screen-and-roll game has been dicey at best because the guard play has been very shoddy. The run-and-gun, 100-point games have been replaced by a very dull, uninspired basketball that usually ends with Anthony jacking up a shot after dribbling the entire 24-second shot clock. So much for D’Antoni’s seven-seconds-or-less mantra.
The dream season that started so promising has turned into a nightmare. D’Antoni’s job is on a week-to-week basis, while Stoudemire is turning into Charles Smith. It got so bad for Amare that ‘Melo even felt sorry for him at one point. He went out of his way to try to incorporate Amare into the offense that he took just seven shots, scoring one point, in the Jan. 24 game against the Charlotte Bobcats. That generosity lasted just one game as ‘Melo went back to Sir Shoot-a-Lot the next game.
What the Knicks need is a veteran point guard (a Commissioner Gordon) to keep Amare and ‘Melo in check, someone who also knows D’Antoni’s system and would love to have one more shot at winning a championship. Jeremy Lin may have solved the problem for now, but he still has to prove it for an entire season. Lin-mania has gripped New York and he may have saved D’Antoni’s job – for now. Lin’s future will depend on how the Knicks finish the season. If the Knicks reach the second round or conference finals, Lin could be that long-term solution. If not, don’t be surprised if D’Antoni makes a phone call to Steve Nash and dangles one of his stars (‘Melo or Amare) in trade talks in the offseason.
Joel Huerto is the editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.