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Stoudemire's return thickens this week's plot

Tuesday, February 14 <3 -- @Toronto

Wednesday, February 15 – VS Sacramento

Friday, February 17 – VS New Orleans

This week presents an interesting dynamic. Taking a look at this week’s schedule, it becomes clear that the Knicks face perhaps their easiest week of the season. Toronto is certifiably bad this year when playing without their best player, Andrea Bargnani, Sacramento packs talent to the rafters but the Knicks have to like their odds in the Garden, and New Orleans will be on the road and down its best player as well. Truly, this new Knicks team, one that seems to take incredible pride in its defense and fundamental offense, should beat all three of these teams. However, this week provides such an odd cocktail of two potential outcomes, all dependent on the Knicks' results on the court, and the addition of Amar'e Stoudemire, who is expected to play in tomorrow's game and many games after that.

Scenario One: Amar'e Stoudemire's addition makes explosions

Although Stoudemire was present for the very beginnings of the Lin legend, the Knicks have found a sort of groove without him. The Knicks have been winning, however the Los Angeles and particularly the Minnesota game came down to crunch time. Stoudemire, whose status as a dominant pick and roll dive man has been his bread and butter since jump street, would seem to be an ideal fit with Lin's perpetual screen and roll game plan. But the truth of the matter is, without Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, the Knicks have played some of their best defensive ball all season. Jared Jeffries and Tyson Chandler may be rivaled only by Ibaka/Perkins for most suffocating defensive big man combination platter in all of basketball. Adding in Amar'e Stoudemire surely cannot boost this team's defense. He can try his ass off as much as he wants, but he has never been a great defender and his minutes will chip into Jeffries's and/or Chandler's minutes, which represents an exercise in addition by subtraction (the addition being points for the other team, the subtraction being Chandler/Jeffries minutes). However, with Lin's play drawing legitimate comparisons to that of Steve Nash circa 'backintheday, the addition of Stoudemire makes me feel like we've seen this movie before. Sure I sound like a crazy Knicks fan, but if Lin can do even a half-decent Nash impression, and if Stoudemire can come to terms with the simple notion that, assuming he brings it every night with his screen game he could dominate offensively once again. The hope here is that Lin and Stoudemire will mesh offensively because it would be cool to watch. Also, though, Stoudemire's addition is going to provide an increase in points at the boring end of the court, so the onus will be on him to mitigate the damage at the fun one. If successful, the combination of Lin's driving skills and intelligence with Stoudemire has absolutely no ceiling as a weapon.

If this is the case, the Knicks will probably sweep the week, culminating in the win on Friday night, which happens to be airing on ESPN. If the Knicks sweep the week, Stoudemire will be a happy Lindergarten student. If this is the case, Carmelo Anthony will be further alienated from this feel-good success by the media, and we'll all have unnerving articles to read on ESPN and Deadspin and ESPN again and oh, ESPN updated about Lin again. To paraphrase Seth quoting The Wire, that's one of them good problems. Because you see, for it to have gotten to this point, it means the Knicks are winning. If they are losing, then scenario two comes into play.

Scenario Two: Amar'e Stoudemire's addition screws everything up

Considering the Knicks' recent history (the more I think about it, the seemingly always-history) of playing down to teams with bad records, teams on losing streaks and especially teams with dysfunction, this is not out of the cards.

Basically, this is the much more brief nightmare scenario. Stoudemire returns and either:

  1. Plays poorly because he hasn't seen any real action in a week and he just went through a traumatic event, or
  2. Plays well at the cost of New York Knicks success

To make my opinion clear, and presumably the opinion of all 13 colonies (courteously), I would much prefer the former. Stoudemire showing rust would be perfectly understandable. Stoudemire is a freakish athlete, so I'm not worried about him being physically ready, and one hopes all the pomp about Jeremy Lin will have provided a bright spot for Stoudemire. Having said that, again, rust would be understandable. So long as he is fitting into the team construct. Because if not, number two hits the fan. Scenario number two, that is, hits each Knicks fan, that is. With a chance to provide some stability and sustained success for the first time in quite awhile, and everybody in America (and Taiwan) now abundantly aware of this opportunity for stability, Stoudemire's failure to satisfy expectations even slightly would cause scuttlebutt. And it would be a very stinky and sloppy scuttlebutt. New York, though, am I right? Start spreading the news, though, am I right?

One last thing. It seems predetermined, with both good and bad reason, that Stoudemire's addition will help the Knicks and Carmelo Anthony's presence will hurt it. Even when Carmelo Anthony is passing beautifully, it is usually at the conclusion of an isolation possession. It is for this reason that he has earned his reputation as a ball-stopper, while Stoudemire's Batman and Robin shtick with Steve Nash in the desert has earned him a free pass. But when considering how cohesively the Knicks have been playing, how so obviously team-like they've been playing, it seems unfathomable that their two best players have yet to factor into the equation. It seems even more unfathomable that the supposed savior of the season, Baron Davis, has yet to contribute a single minute. However, where I draw the line of fathomability is that the Knicks are having such success without Josh Harrellson.

Get well soon, Knicks. In the meantime, this is Amar'e Stoudemire. He likes bounce passes and lobs.