Thursday, December 12, 2013

STAT Turns Back The Clock In Vintage Performance

Amare Stoudemire awoke from a dream, one he never remembered leaving. 

Before wiping the crust webbed outside his eyeballs, the tranquil sound of crickets pervaded his room. He surveyed the scene outside.

Suddenly, there were no mid-town yellow cabs whipping in and out of traffic.

There were no angry Manhattan elitists, circumventing stumbling-drunk tourists while hastily checking their blackberries to see if there was a closing bell on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq.

 Heck, STAT couldn’t even see the malls in downtown White Plains. He couldn't find a valet guy in the posh Trump Towers apartments. He failed to spot the late-night party-goers stumbling the sidewalks of oft-popping Mamaroneck Ave.

That's right.

All he heard was the unmistakable sound of crickets.

 All he saw was cactus-dotted landscape, where the rocks are red as the devil and scintillating scantily-clad women sport cowboy boots.

Entering the locker room, STAT noticed other immediate changes. 

Instead of Raymond Felton devouring hot dogs near his locker, there was Steve Nash, cooking up Canadian Bacon. Nash pored through a stack of papers, reviewing plays in Mike D’Antoni’s vaunted “seven seconds or less” offense.

 That offense, which floundered during D'Antoni's disappointing stay in New York, is vastly different from the Carmelo Anthony ball-stopping isolation game that Mike Woodson enforces.

The newest, freshest hip-hop which JR Smith blasts at max volume was replaced by soothing Creole jazz, bebop and French music. A younger and then-slim Boris Diaw iced his ankles while taking in the tunes.

 Metta World Peace was nowhere to be found. World Peace's stories of legendary Queens Bridge streetballers, guys who would have out-dueled Jordan, outshot Bird, and outclassed Magic in a passing clinic (had they not been locked up), were suddenly on mute. Nowhere to be heard. No comic relief, no alien references. Nothing about Jesus letting him keep his teeth.

 Instead, STAT witnessed pure silence as he saw Joe Johnson, an introvert, lacing up the Air Nikes on his feet.

 Rather than hearing Andrea Bocelli’s epic Christmas music emanating from Italian sniper Andrea Bargnani’s locker, Stoudemire heard the media.

It wasn't the New York media. Not even close. Wasn't the ego-driven guys, who claim to know basketball even though they never played beyond gym class, rambling on about Dolan and Mike Woodson's job security while ducking the long arm of Jonathon Supranowitz and his loyal crew of rats. These guys will bash Supranowitz all they can.

The media buddies, when they aren't flirting with each other before the game, talk about Supranowitz. They mentioned how he's never missed a road trip. They say he's possessed by Knicks basketball, revolving every single iota of his life around it.

Never, however, will these gentlemen ever say anything to his face. No matter how many times he freezes the media out, no matter how many times he advises players to avoid so-and-so, none of the scribes take issue with him one on one.

Instead, there was a younger Quentin Richardson, speaking to a less imposing, less negative Arizona Republic reporter beside his locker. 

There was no brutal backpage tabloid fodder. Nothing of the sort.

Just a dynamic wealth-in-numbers squad, ready to re-script the organization’s history book.

Yes, it was 2005 again.

At least last night, in the confines of Madison Square Garden. 

With coach Mike Woodson on the hot seat, despite a winning over the elusive Jim Dolan, Stoudemire turned a throwback performance. He drew many comparisons to his days as a promising young gun with high-scoring, frenetic Phoenix.

 STAT was a vital piece on the Phoenix Suns, an all-empowering interior monster who thrived with medium-range jumpers, point-blank buckets, and potent dunks in traffic.
 He was at the peak of his powers, before nagging injuries hampered his production.  

This was well before STAT's balky knees and frequent sessions under the knife halted the ferocious offensive pace that rendered him an MVP candidate during his first Knicks season.

On a team pioneered by two-time MVP Steve Nash, the rapid-fire Suns had super balance.
Stat was the centerpiece, infusing D’Antoni’s offensive with high percentage shots, workaday poster dunks, and frequent double-doubles. He was a shark, taking the soul of jellyfish with explosive finishes, plus the excessive contact.

Amare gave an efficient account of himself during the Knicks win, pouring in 14 points (7-for-11 FG) and tearing down nine boards in a thread under 30 minutes. 

The creaky knees that have plagued the latter portion of his career were nonexistent, the limitations on his game invisible.

 Stoudemire looked identical to the guy who swooped into town with an “S” emblazoned on his chest, boldly proclaiming “The Knicks Are Back.”

Back to reality.

Back to the future.