If new Knicks’ power forward and $ 100 M man Amar’e Stoudemire (directly above) thought he’d be playing for Team USA at the World Championships next month and chilling on the Dream Team’s bench at the elbows and in the ears of the best America has to offer, then he couldn’t have been happy when the Knicks told the centerpiece of their rebuilding project this week that they were denying him permission to play.
The Knicks informed their new power forward Monday night, just days after Stoudemire tweeted: “There isn’t anything that would stop me from playing for the U.S.”
Stoudemire was disappointed but accepted the decision, according to team president Donnie Walsh, who wasn’t willing to risk his free-agent prize on a 15-day tournament in Turkey. The U.S. team opened training camp Tuesday in Las Vegas.
“He really wanted to play but understood our position,” said Walsh, who added that Stoudemire needed more rest after playing through the end of May in the Western Conference finals. “He was a man about it.”
Stoudemire’s agent, Happy Walters, did not return a phone call.
Insured players typically don’t need permission to compete for national teams, but Stoudemire’s contract wasn’t covered because of his medical rap sheet. Microscopic surgery on his left knee in 2005 and a detached retina in 2009, among other health issues, have limited the 27-year-old to only three 82-game seasons in his eight-year career. Durability was a major reason the Suns declined to offer Stoudemire a max contract, even after he was named to four consecutive All-Star teams and played every game last season.
Stoudemire, the only top tier free agent the Knicks have managed to acquire this off-season, albeit one near the bottom of the top tier, was one of only 5 players this month to earn a contract at $100 M or more. But Stoudemire’s 2005 microfracture surgery makes his contract uninsurable. The Knicks are still reminded of the last mistake they made on an uninsurable player because that player is on the roster and a constant eyesore–Eddy Curry. Isiah Thomas signed Curry to a $56 M/7 yr deal in 2004 that was uninsurable due to a Curry heart condition. The Knicks had hoped that Curry would attend their summer league in Las Vegas because he has played so little basketball the last two years. Curry did not show up for the voluntary workouts and Curry already thinks Knicks’ coach Mike D’antoni is holding it against him.
Last week, when the Knicks made the mysterious decision to sign Russian 7 footer, Timofey Mozgov, it is believed they informed Mozgov that he would back up newly acquired Center Ronny Turiaf who came to the Knicks as part of the David Lee sign and trade. At least, that’s what Curry’s agent believes took place, as was reported by the New York media.
It seems strange that they would guarantee playing time to a guy unable to start on his European League team and who has never played a minute in the NBA. When D’antoni was asked about it, he responded by saying that he couldn’t promise any time to a player he hasn’t really seen, and that the Knicks would find a place on the floor for a well conditioned Curry.
In terms of the decision to hold Stoudemire out of the Worlds in Turkey next month, it’s simply a smart play on their part from the standpoint of protecting their big new investment. Remember, this is the Knicks we are talking about, who found a way to trade Marcus Camby for Antonio McDyess and then watched McDyess go down for the year in the final minute of the first half of an exhibition game. While they have lost out on their target of 2-3 years in Lebron James, they have probably had the 2nd best off-season of any team, were in the mix for James despite doing everything wrong up until that very week, and despite the very questionable Mozgov signing. I like the decision to hold Stoudemire out of international competition.
If Stoudemire thought he’d be pitching potential free agents like Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony on joining him in New York next month in Las Vegas and Turkey, he will either be doing so as a spectator, or via twitter and text message. Hopefully the decision to hold him out of these games does not impinge on the Knicks’ ability to recruit or acquire top tier players in the future.
As for Amar’e, who took the money the Knicks threw at him, he doesn’t play for country anymore. Now he’s just a New York Knickerbocker.