MIAMI -- It was chaos on the loading dock of American Airlines Arena, as Knicks star Amar'e Stoudemire walked slowly out of the building with a flock of reporters and cameramen chasing him. Here was Stoudemire, his left hand bandaged and arm in a sling, walking through a metal detector and being wanded by a security guard.
"Get back! Get back! All media get back!" arena workers shouted. Tyson Chandler and several Knicks assistant coaches waited to follow Stoudemire to the team bus for the trip to the airport. Cameramen held their hardware aloft and still photographers snapped their shutters with fury, trying to get the money shot -- the Knicks' $100 million man on his walk of pain.
|Amar'e and the Knicks pay the price after he punches the metal box that houses a fire extinguisher. (AP)|
"There was a lot of blood," one person said, citing witnesses.
Chaos. No sooner had Heat coach Erik Spoelstra descended the interview dais, word began to circulate that paramedics had been summoned to the Knicks' locker room. Knicks coach Mike Woodson was on his way to the podium, and 25 or 30 media members waited outside the Knicks' locker room as reporters scurried back and forth, hysteria breaking loose in the bowels of the arena.
By the time media were allowed in, the room was empty except for Chandler, Carmelo Anthony and assistant coach Darrell Walker, who sat on a chair outside the rear entrance to the locker room, beyond which Stoudemire had unleashed his fury. The door was closed; the damage obscured in the tense moments after the carnage. Stoudemire was nowhere to be seen.
A world of hurt besieged Stoudemire this year -- the death of his brother, a back injury that robbed him of the explosiveness on which an All-Star career had been built. Now this. It was toward that door where Stoudemire had been headed, having suffered the indignity of another playoff loss and another night spent mostly as a decoy -- an afterthought.
Smash. Out came the frustration, the anguish, the anger. And the blood. Out went the Knicks on the losing end in the postseason again, more than 11 years since they last won a playoff game. Four-thousand, twenty days and counting.
Stoudemire doesn't know about all that. Doesn't need to. But he knows that he came to New York to resurrect the franchise two years ago, and he did, and now he's a shadow -- a ghost. And now, who knows? That left-handed punch might've been his last play of the season.
Details of Stoudemire's condition were sketchy. How many stitches? Were there any broken bones? Any lacerated ligaments? Nobody was saying. But you didn't need an X-ray machine or a frank dispersal of medical details to understand the trigger that had gone off for Stoudemire on his journey -- all of 10 seconds or so -- from the court to the locker room.
|More on Knicks-Heat|
|More NBA coverage|
"I am so mad at myself right now," Stoudemire tweeted early Tuesday. "I want to apologize to the fans and my team, not proud of my actions, headed home for a new start."
Hours earlier, Stoudemire had been in a side room out of view of the media gathered in the locker room before the game. A loud thud -- and then another one, and another -- punctuated the pregame quiet. Again and again, these violent collisions, like a carpenter taking down drywall. It was Stoudemire, working with the medicine ball as he warmed up and worked up a pregame sweat.
Then, to the court, where Stoudemire -- methodically and with an edge about him -- went through his pregame shooting routine. I remember thinking if there were ever a night for Stoudemire to regain his dominance, his rightly place as one of the game's most fierce finishers, this would be it.
And it didn't happen -- not even close. The powers that are guiding the Knicks toward whatever inevitable conclusion and offseason of turmoil they're facing are too much to resist. Anthony went out and put 15 points on the Heat in the first quarter, scoring from anywhere and everywhere on the floor. He finished with 30 points on 26 shots, 17 more than Stoudemire.
Stoudemire took one shot in the first quarter, and missed.
He would later assert himself with eight of his 18 points in the fourth, and this is now considered assertive for Stoudemire, who had restored the Knicks to respectability -- and now can't find a way to fit in.
He didn't speak with reporters, obviously, on that walk into the chaos of the loading dock Monday night, so we're left to only speculate on what made Stoudemire take out that metal box. It isn't working for Stoudemire in New York now, not with this Knicks team -- not anymore. Not with Anthony's prolific scoring gifts and his leading-man persona dominating everything. Not with the coach and the system that had fueled his entire career both gone. Collateral damage in this Knicks season has been widespread, and it will be long-lasting.
"It's a tough situation," Anthony said. "Seems like there's always something happening. Snakebit. At this point, it is what it is."
It's a mess, all of it. Stoudemire's hand, the Knicks' chances in this series against Miami, and ultimately, Stoudemire and Anthony succeeding together.
Back home for a new start, indeed. The Knicks have lost their top defender, Iman Shumpert, and at this rate, they might not have point guard Jeremy Lin on the floor again until training camp. Now, Stoudemire has a date with an X-ray machine Tuesday as the Knicks' bizarre season continues to collide with agony and disharmony, incredible highs and lows.
This was the low point, you would think.