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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

NBA REPORT

Knicks can't count on Stoudemire


NEW YORK — Amare Stoudemire returned against the Cavaliers and the Knicks offense — flawless to a fault in its previous two games — took a powder and the defense with it.

The same collage which shot nearly 57 percent (better than 59 percent from the depths) against defensively demonizing Boston and put up 64 first-half points at New Jersey crawled (56 through three quarters) at Cleveland against a team with no legit center, though Jim Chones is close to coming out of the Cavs' booth and making an impact.

This for a team which had lost its last three games by a combined 71 points.

What happened to the memo that the earth, the moon and all of interim owner James Dolan's Camp Cablevision constellations revolved around Carmelo Anthony?

Smiling and playing to the crowd (think Bob Knight, Red Holzman and Larry Brown would have allowed Carmelo Anthony, Amare and Baron Davis to enjoy themselves while the team was getting its collective assets kicked?), the strikingly unmotivated Melo made five mug shots, got to the line once and hauled in a single rebound.

The guy worked up more of a sweat manipulating his way out of Denver.

Now, don't read me wrong; I'm not putting the Knicks' limp loss on Melo. I understand the difficulty in getting up for a moderately meaningless game and being redeployed at small forward, just as I recognize the importance of finding time and touches for Amare a week before the playoffs get under way.

Still, this is hardly the time to tamper with normally oscillating harmony and routinely fragile role playing.

It really doesn't matter whether the Knicks finish 6-7-8, but how they finish. Lose to Miami or Chicago, OK, as long as you show well. Lose to Indiana and Mike Woodson doesn't keep his job.

The Cavs' comedown was the first good reason to interview others for the Knicks' head coach position.

Age-old gobbledygook aside about wounded warriors not forfeiting their standing, was there anything encouraging Woodson saw in practice that influenced him to reunite Amare with the regulars after he had started the previous 27 days at the medical wing?

As predicted in daily emails by column Intel Officer Sam Lefkowitz, the Bermuda Triangle offense was in full effect. Woodson's world stagnated as Anthony and Amare paired up and were later joined by J.R. Smith. They were totally out of synch.

Nothing and nobody moved. Players got out of the way, waited and watched. And the coach screamed, "That's what I'm talking about!"

Woodson is chug-a-lugging too much Kool-Aid from his own still.

The Knicks get their rhythm from defense. Meanwhile, the present-day Amare can't guard the three, four, five or a healthy potted palm. He's not even up to helping on defense.

Braids may make him look younger, but the body-beautiful cannot be duped.

Woodson insisted on starting Amare rather than allowing him to gradually work himself back into game condition and cadence. Hence, the bench also was weakened.

Landry Fields may be in a statistical slump, but he's better for the first team due to the various tangibles and intangibles he provides.

OK, so Woodson was dead set on respecting Stoudemire's rank, reputation and pay grade. Then at least employ a zone to shroud his shortcomings. Give him a measured chance to regain a feel for the game's flow.

Instead, Amare made undrafted (2010) Samardo Samuels look like a sporty Karl Malone. It seemed like every time they matched up, the Louisville import whooshed by the Knicks' just-browsing tourist for an uncontested layup, or stuck an unmolested jumper (7-for-12 FG) in Stoudemire's snooze.

Surely Woodson won't be deceived by Stoudemire stumbling to a team-high tying 15 points. From what I witnessed against the Cavaliers and during his post-bulging disc days that began in last year's playoffs against the Celtics, Amare is Amare in name only. Very little is left of the player he was prior to that first round.

That's not to say he won't be back strong next season if he doesn't hurt himself in the meantime, but this season is shot.

A few weeks ago, a former coaching colleague of Woodson offered this general insight. Hopefully it'll apply to Amare. "Sometimes, Woody can be stubborn, but he isn't obstinate and will realize when he is wrong."

By the way, a quick review found that Melo's 13 flings vs. the Cavalirs were his fewest in the past 14 games — since putting up a dozen in a garbage-time win vs. Detroit March 24.

Coincidentally, Columbo, that was also Amare's last game before becoming the poster child for Doan's pills. Connect the polka dots on your own time.

This just in from column contraire Phillip Marmanillo: "Why sign an emergency big when you don't have a starting point?

Baron Davis, Mike Bibby and Toney Douglas will be gone the moment the last whistle blows."

* * *

Until something serious is uncovered regarding the business practices of Billy Hunter or it's proved that Derek Fisher's agenda is detrimental to the Players Association, I don't really care to waste space regarding the polluted power struggle going on between the union's executive director and its president.

For its part, the union's executive committee voted 8-0 in hopes Fisher would step aside rather than be forced to pursue legal means.

Big deal!

That same unanimous sentiment is voiced toward me every time we have a family get-together.

Peter Vecsey covers the NBA for the New York Post.


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