Amar'e Stoudemire on Losing With Knicks: 'It Has Not Been Fun'
Welcome to how the other half lives, Amar'e.
After bolting the Suns as a free agent last summer for New York, the star power forward is paying a visit to the slums of the NBA standings. The Knicks are 3-8, and have dropped six straight.
"It hasn't been fun,'' Stoudemire said in an interview with FanHouse while in Denver for Tuesday's 120-118 loss to the Nuggets. "It has not been fun.''
Stoudemire hardly is to the point in which he regrets taking a five-year, $100 million contract with the Knicks, with the deal turned into a sign-and-trade. But it's become quite apparent he had it pretty good in Phoenix.
No, the Suns never were able to make the NBA Finals. But they came close last season, losing Game 5 of the West finals on a buzzer shot by Lakers forward Ron Artest and eventually falling 4-2.
"I think the biggest thing for him is that the last six years, he's been spoon-fed at the rim,'' said Nuggets forward Al Harrington, looking at what Stoudemire left behind by breaking up his pairing with Suns star point guard Steve Nash. "Now, it's a little different. He's got to create more on his own. Of course, there's going to be an adjustment period for him. Playing with (Nash) makes it a lot easier.''
Nash and Stoudemire clicked like Siskel and Ebert. With Knicks point guard Raymond Felton, it's been more like Ebert and Roeper.
"It's a little bit different combination than Nash, Stoudemire and stuff,'' said Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni, Stoudemire's head coach in Phoenix during 4 ½ of his eight seasons there before D'Antoni bolted to New York in 2008. "Raymond will do it a different way. ... We're just trying to figure out how to move (Stoudemire) around and get him loose.''
Stoudemire is averaging 21.1 points, down from last season's 23.1. But the biggest difference has been with his field-goal percentage.
Without so many easy passes to the rim from Nash, Stoudemire is shooting just 46.4 percent. That's way under last season's 55.7 and his career mark entering the season of 54.4.
"My game is pretty much spent a lot on the perimeter this season so far,'' said Stoudemire, preferring to point to how he's being defended."A lot of teams are pretty much stacking in and playing a box-and-one pretty much. So it's tough for me to get to the basket as I normally do.''
Foes can afford to focus on Stoudemire because the Knicks have no other big men who can score. They also don't have outside shooting good enough to consistently make teams pay.
It's translated into a very a frustrating start. But Stoudemire is trying to make the best of it.
"It's been a little tough,'' said Stoudemire, whose rebounding average is down to 7.9 from last season's 8.9. "(It's) something you just have to get prepared for and learn how to win.
"I think being in New York, the fans (have) somewhat of a sense of urgency. From a rebuilding standpoint, it doesn't normally happen that way. But, again, it's up to us to apply work and effort on the court. We'll figure it out.''
It's not hard to figure out New York isn't Phoenix, on and off the court. The Suns went 44-38 in Stoudemire's rookie season of 2002-03 and 29-53 the next season. But then it got real good with the arrival of Nash in the summer of 2004.
Nash was the NBA's Most Valuable Player in 2004-05 and in 2005-06. Stoudemire was an All-Star in five of six seasons playing with Nash.
"Phoenix is more of a small-town feel,'' Stoudemire said. "New York obviously is a huge, huge city. There are a lot of fans in New York. But the difference is the city is magnified so much. Especially the Knicks, because they haven't won in a while, so everything that manifests within the team is magnified.''
Stoudemire told FanHouse last July he would have re-signed with Phoenix had they offered him a fully guaranteed five-year maximum contract, which is what he got from New York. He said the Suns were only willing to give him three years fully guaranteed.
So, obviously, going to the highest bidder played a role in Stoudemire becoming a Knick. He was the team's marquee free-agent landing after the Knicks whiffed on LeBron James, who went from Cleveland to Miami.
"I'm not that,'' said Stoudemire, insisting he shouldn't be regarded as a savior for a team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2004, and that he's not feeling any extra pressure. "We all have to become better as a team.''
For the Knicks to become significantly better, Stoudemire needs help. He's left no doubt he'd love for them to get Denver forward Carmelo Anthony, who has yet to sign at three-year, $64.47 million contract extension, either through a trade or as a free agent next summer.
In the meantime, Stoudemire is trying to get the Knicks some wins.
"For us being a young team, we just have to continue to improve,'' Stoudemire said. "We'll be OK. (Stoudemire's statistics) can easily go up. It's not an issue. My focus this year is more so getting my teammates involved so teams can loosen up a little bit. So I try to get my teammates involved and play smart basketball. I can score with the best. That's not a problem at all.''
It wasn't Tuesday in Denver as Stoudemire scored 24, the same as Anthony put up. But once again the Knicks lost.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson