Amar’e Stoudemire talked about “polishing the gems” he received from his summer matriculation at Dream University. The two-week course with Hakeem Olajuwon was set up to help Stoudemire, at 29, add a missing dimension — a post-up game — to his offensive skill set.
As Stoudemire makes his preseason debut Friday night against the Toronto Raptors in Montreal, the focus is about how he and Carmelo Anthony work together on the court with Raymond Feltonrunning the point. But there is some intrigue in those “gems” he now possesses from his work with Olajuwon.
Stoudemire said he won’t go out of his way, however, to show off his post-up game.
“We’ll see how the game goes,” he said after Thursday’s practice. “Every game flows differently. You only get so many opportunities to display certain skills. If the opportunity presents itself, then you will see a few post moves. But if not, it’s OK.”
Give him credit for practicing what he often preached last season, when he seemed to indirectly plead — via the media — with Anthony last season to play within the offense rather than bust plays to get himself post-up opportunities. Stoudemire may be excited to show off his new skill set, but to veer away from the team concept just to do it would go against everything this team — Melo included — has vowed to uphold.
A bulk of the offense that Mike Woodson installed early in preseason was motion sets, but over the last week there were post-up plays added. We won’t see the entire playbook in the preseason — some secrets need to be kept before the season starts — but we’ll see more variety in the offense over this next stretch of games.
The question that remains is, will we see Stoudemire do the Dream Shake?
“We’ve got to put it to use,” Woodson said of Stoudemire’s new tools. “I’ve seen some of it in our camp.”
Stoudemire dominated the NBA primarily as a pick-and-roll finisher because of his explosive athleticism, which paired so perfectly with two-time MVP Steve Nash and, for 54 games, Felton. Woodson told him after last season, however, that as he reaches the latter of his prime years, Stoudemire needed to expand his game. He arranged for Stoudemire to work with Olajuwon, who is Woodson’s former teammate and close friend, and Stoudemire gladly accepted the education.
“The fact that he can make free throws, he’s got great hands in terms of catching the ball, we should be able to post the ball to him,” Woodson said. He explain that Olajuwon saw great potential in Stoudemire, because he “was a player who was still athletic, that had great hands, that just needed to learn some footwork and feel good about some of the moves he needed to make down there.”
Olajuwon taught Stoudemire some basic go-to moves, but more importantly how to utilize them in specific situations.
Don’t expect to see Stoudemire running to the block every time down the court and posting up likePatrick Ewing, but when the Knicks are in a half-court set and the ball finds Stoudemire on the low block, you should not see him look nearly as tentative and awkward as he has in the past.
• Ronnie Brewer (recovering from knee surgery) is on the road trip after going through his first two practices of training camp this week (though he did not scrimmage). However, Woodson said Brewer will likely not play in any of the three games. “Until he has some contact, which he hasn’t had yet, we’re not going to let him play,” he said. “When we get back and practice, he’ll have a chance to go through some contact and we’ll see how he feels.”
• Marcus Camby (calf strain) was a bit of a surprise addition to the trip, but it sounds like this was more for his mental health than his physical health. “Brought him out because he hasn’t been around this team and he needed a little chance of [scenery].” Camby has not practiced since the first week of training camp, but has said he is close and wants to play. Woodson said he doesn’t want Camby playing until he “actually gets out on the floor and starts banging around [in practice].”
• Stoudemire will start against the Raptors but likely won’t play Saturday night against the Celtics in Albany. Stoudemire missed a few days — and two preseason games — with a bruised knee and Woodson suggested he won’t push his power forward to play in a back-to-back right away. “We’ll play him [Friday] and we’ll see how he feels,” Woodson said. “We might sit him in the back-to-back and then play him Monday and Wednesday and get him going.”