Mar 11, 2012; New York, NY, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Nikola Vucevic (8) moves the ball as New York Knicks power forward Amare Stoudemire (1) defends during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden. 76ers won 106-94. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE
He said it, so it must be true! Via ESPN'S Jared Zwerling:
"Defense is always the key to win championships, and that's something that I'm dedicated on also, to become a much, much better defensive player," Stoudemire said. "And it's going to happen. It's just a matter of preparation and practice, and just getting that chemistry down on that end of the court."
"It's going to happen"! That's great! Amar'e's definitely never made us empty promises before, so we can be certain he means it.
Taking off my "cynical buttface" hat for a moment, two things:
1. Bold proclamations like this just spill out of Amar'e's mouth. We know this. Still, the fact that the word "defense" has entered his consciousness-- even in August-- feels like it's worth something. At least it's on his mind. At least he's heard of it. And, given how poorly last season went and how uncharacteristically deflated he seemed at times, it's great that Amar'e's back to feeling energetic and confident and stuff. I'm excited that he's excited.
2. For Amar'e, I don't think it's necessarily a "matter of preparation and practice" and "chemistry". That sounds complicated, and Amar'e's defensive struggles have never seemed complicated to me. I think it's just a matter of sticking with his man. From what I've seen, the guy tends to find trouble when he gets all worked up about switching or helping or making a play from the weak side. When there are too many tasks at hand, the play ends with someone scoring while Amar'e defends a cool breeze. If I had Amar'e's ear, I'd give it back to him because that's gross and he needs it, but I'd also speak into it and tell him to just worry about contesting and boxing out his assignment and let others help around him.
So, yeah, we'll believe that Amar'e's ready to be a useful defender when we see it. Either way, though, Amar'e's summer has seemed like a vast improvement over the last one (getting engaged and training with Hakeem Olajuwon and guest starring on the new Mindy Kaling show > being locked out and mishandling back rehabilitation and guest starring on The Exes), and it's hopefully the start of a fine comeback season.