I linked to a few Al Iannazzone tweets quoting Amar'e Stoudemire in a post earlier today, but I figured this topic was worth its own post, particularly having seen this report Howard Beck published tonight. We've all been guessing at the reasons for Amar'e's uncharacteristically plodding play this season-- his knees, his back, the weight he added in the offseason, lack of a passing point guard, inability to cohere with his teammates, and more recently, emotional turmoil following the death of his brother. Today, Amar'e himself offered more honest, candid remarks about his struggles than anything we'd heard from him all year.
When Stoudemire reported to training camp, he was carrying 15 pounds of added muscle weight, and had hardly played for seven months.
"That’s the longest I’ve ever been away from the game of basketball," he said.
As for the added weight slowing him down, Stoudemire said candidly: "It might have. It’s the biggest I’ve ever been."
He added, "There’s no excuses for that. But I wanted to get stronger, I wanted to definitely heal my back."
So, while all of the things we guessed at have likely contributed to Amar'e's poor play, he seems to focus on that added weight (which was evidently a consequence of his back injury) above all else. Based on what we've seen, I think that makes perfect sense. Amar'e's moves to the basket have looked a bit like a hand picking up a full juicebox that it expects to be empty. He leaps with the apparent expectation that whatever force his knees are generating will launch him high above his defender and the rim, only to fall short and improvise some feeble attempt in mid-air. We've seen a number of his shots get blocked or spun off the rim because he simply couldn't elevate and plunge them through the basket like he's supposed to.
Anyway, Stoudemire sounds upbeat and ready to either trim his body or modify his approach so that he can be more effective in the second half of the season. Amar'e's predilection for optimism might make you skeptical about his words today, but, well, I'm eating the hype right up. I want an effective Amar'e back too badly not to get my hopes up when I hear stuff like this. At the very least, some time to practice and get comfortable with Jeremy Lin (and Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler and everybody) should help Amar'e put himself in the right spots and get the right touches going forward.
(Side note: I almost always link stuff as a suggestion that you go read it, but that's doubly true for Beck articles like this one. His reports are just so damn clean. He produces work that informs without being dry and engages without being riddled with innuendo. That can be hard to come by from this beat, but Beck does it pretty much every day.)