Last summer, New York Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire was getting primed for a big bounce-back season. Stoudemire went to Texas to work with Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon for a week during the summer. He worked on his post game and all of the little tricks Olajuwon could reveal to him on how to dominate on the low block. It left Stoudemire ready for the 2012-13 season to prove that he wasn't on the decline.
Then he got hit with a ruptured cyst in his left knee right before the season started, and that turned into knee debridement that sidelined him until the beginning of January. He struggled with his health all season, playing in just 29 games total. Olajuwon will work with him again this summer and try to help Stoudemire refine his game more. Via the New York Post:
“He put in so much work, was excited and so confident,” Olajuwon told The Post by phone from his winter home in Amman, Jordan. “To see he didn't get a chance to really show it, I felt very bad for him. I felt for him this season because of how hard he worked. He looked so much forward to the season but with injuries he didn't get a chance to show what he learned last summer.”
“Now he's coming back with all the moves,” Olajuwon said. “Now it comes to down refining it more. Where because he's had knee problems, his elevation is not as high as when he was younger, so he needs to be more crafty to get his shot off all the time. I've worked with him to create space in the paint where he can use his shooting ability and get his shot off.”
Stoudemire was coming off a disappointing 2011-12 campaign in which his scoring was way down. He wasn't getting the same number of shots he was used to, and his field-goal percentage was under 50 for the first time in five seasons. There were questions about whether or not he and Carmelo Anthony could actually coexist in the Knicks' lineups. After going to work with Olajuwon, there was a certaine excitement about how a low post threat of Stoudemire moving forward could potentially complement Anthony on the court.
After missing so much time because of his knees, Stoudemire will have to work hard on building the strength in his knees this summer. Once Olajuwon sees the athletic state of Stoudemire and just how healthy his body is, he can begin working on certain things to complement and develop the game of the Knicks' big man.
“The only thing I want to see is his elevation,” Olajuwon said. “He needs good elevation. That's why he needs his knees to be strong so he can finish strong. Once you have surgeries, it depends on how hard you work to get back.
“Once he's comfortable, we can apply a little more innovation. If he's moving good, it will be smoother and he'll get good elevation, and he'll get to another level. All summer he'll have to strengthen his knees.”
Stoudemire will turn 31 years old in November and is beginning his 12th season in the NBA. If he's not explosive enough to be the high-flyer we saw even a couple seasons ago, he's going to have to adjust his game in order to start justifying even a big portion of the $45 million the Knicks owe him over the next two seasons. Here's video of Stoudemire's work with Olajuwon last summer: