|Amar'e blames D'Antoni. (Getty)|
Amar'e Stoudemire is poor at defense. This is pretty widely accepted, and his return Tuesday night for the Knicks did nothing to improve that perception. As is the norm with Stoudemire when the heat rises on his backside, he's pinning his problems in rotation and scheme execution on his fomer coach, Mike D'Antoni. From ESPN NY:
"I think just having a defensive coach for the first time in my career is going to help," he said. "I've never been taught defense in my whole career, so to now have a coach that actually teaches defense and teaches strategies, and knows positioning and posture, how to guard different plays, it's going to be helpful. I'm going to take it as a challenge, and I'm going to accept the challenge and try to improve as a player."
Bigs tend to develop defensively later in their careers, starting around age 27. But Stoudemire is 30. That ship has sailed for the most part. So whatever improvement Stoudemire is hoping for is going to have to be incremental. He can become non-hurtful for the team defensively. He can be a zero-impact defensive player. But that's about as good as he can hope for.
Meanwhile, tossing D'Antoni, who has been the only coach to bring him to All-Star status, under the bus isn't a great look. D'Antoni has never made defense a priority, that's pretty apparent. But if he literally never coached defense, his teams would never sport an above-average or even average ranking.
The 7-Seconds-or-Less Suns were an average defensive team. Last year's Knicks team was actually better defensively when D'Antoni was head coach versus when Mike Woodson took over. And this year, the Lakers have the seventh-best defense in points per 100 possessions, just three spots behind the Knicks.
At some point it's time for Stoudemire to just say he needs to improve on his own, that he needs to make it a priority, and that it's not on anyone else to make him a good defender. After that it's just whether that's a task he can pull of at age 30.