It wasn't that long ago where it looked as if the best days were behind Amar'e Stoudemire. It was only a month ago when Hall of Famer and television analyst Charles Barkley gave a bleak outlook for Stoudemire, saying the forward “has lost his talent, and he is in serious trouble.”
“You all in trouble with Amar’e. I like Amar’e as a person, but I don’t see him doing anything in the NBA, to be honest with you. I think he has lost his skill. He lost his talent…He played the game on talent when he was younger. He played the game 100 percent on talent. And now he has lost his talent and he is in serious trouble.”
Sometimes it's not very hard to do, but Stoudemire has proven Barkley wrong as he clearly shown to have some gas left in the tank.
Stoudemire continued to provide the Knickerbockers with a huge lift off the bench in his first back-to-back appearances of the season Wednesday night. Stoudemire may have saved the season for New York scoring 14 points and hitting the go-ahead shot with 2:34 left to play in a 83-78 win over the Bulls. He also grabbed a season high of nine rebounds and helped the Knicks avoid an embarrassing home loss in a game they once led by 23 points in the third quarter.
"I thought Amar'e bucket which got us a two point lead, when we needed a bucket desperately, was the biggest shot of the night," said Coach Mike Woodson. "He looked really good tonight. He has come a long way since the start of the season. It’s kind of nice to see in terms of starting the season only being able to play him a certain amount of minutes and couldn’t play back-to-back. His minutes have gradually grown, so we’re starting to benefit from it.”
The Knicks power forward opened this season on a minutes restriction after having another knee surgery this past summer. Woodson had also planned to never play Stoudemire in games on consecutive nights. That plan appears to be out the window now as Stoudemire appears back to full strength.
“It’s great in order to be out there playing, in a desperation game, down the stretch, it feels good to be back on the court, tell you that much,” said Stoudemire.“A lot of hard work been put in this year to get in top shape and it’s paying off.”
After playing 27 minutes the night before in Cleveland, Woodson brought back Stoudemire for a season high of 30 minutes last night and played his best game of the season. Woodson would play Stoudemire over the final 4:44 of the game and made two keys play down the stretch that led to the victory.
"The big picture is still there," said Woodson. "If he can do this consistently, I won't even consider playing him 30 plus minutes. It would be stupid to do that."
The game was tied at 74 after a Joakim Noah tip-in, and the Bulls had a chance to take the lead following a rebound from a Carmelo Anthony. However, Stoudemire stole the ball from Noah and then nailed the jumper to give the Knicks the lead for good.
Stoudemire only averaged 5 points in his first 12 games played, but has now scored double digit points in his last four games to increase his average to 7.3 points a game.
"It’s getting better and better. Just continue to work and put in the work in practice and the weight room and all that stuff that guys don’t really get a chance to see, it shows on the basketball court,” said Stoudemire, who added nine rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot against the Bulls. “I still have a ways to go.”
The Knickerbockers did not have a practice today as they once again prepare for another pair of back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday. Stoudemire hopes to once again play in both games, and that maybe the biggest test of all to Stoudemire's health.
“My personal goals are out of the roof because that’s what keeps me motivated, keeps me determined and helps me improve as a player,” Stoudemire said. “As far as how I feel now, I feel great, I feel strong. I’m never satisfied, I want to continue to get better. I’m getting back into a rhythm and my confidence is starting to rise a little bit more.