We've questioned the wisdom of rushing back Amar'e Stoudemire for a New Year's Day return, but assuming the Knicks know what they're doing -- and seriously, let's hope that they do -- it will still be a welcome sight to see the big fella back in a Knicks uniform tonight against the Blazers.
There's a myriad of reasons why fans might have soured on STAT over the past year or so. One needn't look much further than that STAT nickname, one crafted by himself -- a dubious practice, to say the least -- and one meant to glorify the statistic amid what is a fairly silly acronym to begin with. Only in athletics would such a practice be even remotely acceptable, no one walks into your office and says, "Call me RAISE, it stands for Rest Assured I Shall Excel!'
Then there was last season. Along with his declining returns on offense, his maddeningly insufficient rebounding, an increasing indifference to defense, and the slow realization that "Holy lord, this is one terrible contract!", the year culminated with a wounded hand after punching a fire extinguisher that added the spectacle of an embarrassing mishap to an already demoralizing pasting from the Miami Heat. "So you mean not only are we going to lose, we're going to look like total idiots while doing it? Awesome!"
Everything about last year seemed designed to make us all like Amar'e less. Even things I once found endearing, like his constant "And 1!" on pretty much every drive to the hoop deteriorated into a rage-inducing irritation. I'm also sort of sick of that apostrophe. That complaint may be silly and dumb, but there it is. I've soured on it.
And yet, Amar'e Stoudemire is still my favorite Knick.
So I understand those who keep hoping for any way to trade this guy, those who are terrified his return is somehow going to ruin the good thing we've finally got going, but I couldn't be happier to have him back.
Perhaps it's because after years of roster turmoil, Stoudemire is amazingly the longest tenured Knick. But it's also because Amar'e's arrival still feels like a turning point. His maiden season was the first time in such a long while where it even seemed possible that the Knicks didn't have to be a laughingstock. It may have been brief, but for that fleeting moment when he was lighting up the Garden, when "M-V-P!" chants were however foolishly cascading from the rafters, it was just like "Oh, thank God, the Knicks! We finally have something, ANYTHING!"
It's beyond cliche now to say that we root for the laundry, that the individual players who come along are somewhat interchangeable as we cling to our respective teams, but there's still ones we let in. Sometimes you root for THAT guy. I want this team to succeed with Amar'e Stoudemire, why that's important to me I'm not even totally sure, but it is.
Sure, there's the possibility that STAT's return spoils the chemistry this team has formed, that nebulous force we fearfully seek to preserve even if we don't fully understand it, but I'm hoping this is another turning point, the time when the Knicks finally become something whole, and maybe even something special.