Stretching the Field: Take all the time you need, Amare
By Shawn Clarke, NBA Contributing Editor
(Sports Network) - In the film "A Bronx Tale," everything Eddie Mush touched turned sour.
If he bet on the New York Yankees, they would lose. Mush was a jinx in the dice game, too. And you can pretty much guarantee your horse was a loser at the racetrack if by chance Mush placed a bet on the same one.
Nobody likes a killjoy, even if they're a degenerate gambler or a six-time NBA All-Star. So what happens to the hot start of the New York Knicks when Amare Stoudemire is ready to return?
Out for almost two months at the start of the season after undergoing athroscopic left knee surgery, Stoudemire is slowly nearing his anticipated return for a Knicks squad off to just the second 6-0 start in team history. Will Stoudemire ruin the chemistry when he's healthy enough to play? Can he fall in line with what coach Mike Woodson is preaching?
Those questions will be answered in the near future for New York, which was 5-0 back in 1969-70 and 7-0 in 1993-94. The Knicks went to the NBA Finals in both of those seasons, winning it all in 1969-70.
It would be foolish to think someone with the talent of Stoudemire could spoil a good thing. It's just intriguing to see how well the Knicks are playing with their best inside player watching as a spectator. But then again, many assumed Carmelo Anthony was too selfish to play alongside Jeremy Lin and was perhaps jealous of all the attention 'Linsanity' was producing.
Lin is now in Houston running the point for the Rockets, and Anthony is currently sixth in the NBA with 23.8 ppg. It is also believed Anthony and Stoudemire aren't a match made in heaven as well.
The Knicks are second in the league with 103.5 ppg and have been stingy on the defensive end, holding opposing squads to 89.8 ppg. Imagine how much better the Knicks' defense can be with Stoudemire's length in the paint, but right now everything seems to be coagulating in their favor.
New York just recorded what has been dubbed as a statement win over one the best Western Conference teams in the past decade, the San Antonio Spurs. Three areas were key to that win in the Alamo City: defense, 3-point shooting and Anthony's unselfish play. The latter has to stay consistent throughout the season, especially when Stoudemire returns, but Woodson credited the defense after his first win in San Antonio.
"Our defense just got stingy. We got the stops," Woodson stated after improving to 24-6 in the regular season with the Knicks. "We made the winning plays coming down the stretch."
Woodson, who said his team is "for real" and will take it one game at a time, noted that the Knicks are deep enough to pick up the slack if Anthony faces double and triple teams. Anthony had just nine points the last time out and put trust in his teammates. He saw some action down low against Spurs' burly center DeJuan Blair and grabbed 12 rebounds, including seven on the defensive end. 'Melo won't have to grind so much in the paint when Stoudemire is back.
"Tonight was a great way to show how together we are as a unit," Anthony said in the locker room after beating the Spurs. "We did it as one tonight."
Knicks center Tyson Chandler praised Anthony for his unselfishness and ability to keep everyone in the game, from the starters all the way down to the reserves. Chandler said changing coverage and the specific defense the Knicks were playing kept them unbeaten on the season. He wasn't getting too excited over the hard-fought win against a well-coached Spurs team, saying "It's one game, but it's one to build on."
It doesn't get easier for New York, as it will visit Memphis Friday night. The team is in the process of playing 12 of 17 games away from Madison Square Garden, and can't afford to have any distractions. Anthony is playing well as evidenced by his scoring output, reserve J.R. Smith attributes his more mature approach to the game for his success and even veteran Jason Kidd is providing leadership on a nightly basis.
Don't forget about Raymond Felton, either. The Spurs did and he lit them up for a season-high 25 points. Heck, even Rasheed Wallace is contributing.
So far everything is working for the Knicks. Their pick-and-roll has been able to shake players free for good looks and there's no need to spoil that.
When Stoudemire is ready to return it will make the Knicks look even more dangerous on paper. For now, there's no need to rush Stoudemire back since the Knicks have substantially passed the litmus test without him.
11/16 12:17:39 ET