Unable to sleep at 3am I was thinking about Amare Stoudemire's body. Specifically how he's not built for defense, rebounding or battling in the paint.
Amare's known and loved as one of the best and most powerful finishers in the game who's also added a deadly jump shot. But he's also a guy that gets called out by everyone from Charles Barkely to Craig Sager for under performing on D.
It's assumed by most that Amare just needs to apply himself more and try harder to become a great defender and fulfill his potential. There's certainly room for improvement but what gets left out of the discussion is his body and the way he's been poorly coached and misused.
Great NBA players are a combination of many things. Short nonathletic types like me (and 98% of you) love to talk about heart, will, mental toughness, stamina, desire and grit. We remember the time when we were totally hung over after a full night of partying and still managed to power through a day of work and feel like we can relate.
What we can't possibly understand is what it's like to be 6'11" and 250lbs with the speed and agility of a gazel and the power of a bear. So we don't talk about how that body is put together and better suited for a certain type of game played against other giants of men. We don't examine the distribution of the weight and muscle and assess its impact on low post defense and rebounding. We just assume all very big men can do the same things physically and the difference is desire.
Amare Stoudemire is not built for the role he'd been playing under Mike D'Antoni for the past 4 years. As a center even in this faster, more athletic league you still need both height and (m)ass to succeed on the glass and in the paint.
Amare has the upper body of David Robinson and the lower body of Tracy McGrady. This combination allows him spin and leap past other men and to power through defenders arms and finish strong at the rim.
What he doesn't have is the lower half shared by great defensive big men. Duncan. Chandler. Barkely. Even Boris Diaw and Robin Lopez. These guys have big wide hips and powerful low centers of gravity. In other words, they are built like women with wide hips and more narrow shoulders where as Amare is a man. These girly-men use their powerful bases to full advantage in the paint where they take up space and can avoid being backed down or moved from the under glass.
This doesn't mean of course that Amare can't be a good defender. Even a great defender. He's quick and agile and can jump through the roof. And it certainly doesn't explain why Amare doesn't do a great job playing the pick and roll and on help rotations.
Amare's been asked over the past several years to play in a system where he's THE big man and where defensive schemes and drills weren't coached. For a young player coming out of high school without sound fundamental basketball skills is it any wonder that the lack of coaching and playing out of position has left him unprepared to play a perimeter defensive game? He was being asked to learn two types of defensive play with the primary role working against his natural abilities while at the same time not having team emphasis on the rest.
Amare worked on his jump shot in the gym during the off season and improved. How was he supposed to work on team defense and rotation schemes in July and August?
I look forward to Amare this season playing his first full year since his rookie season at power forward. The new coaching staff will spend more time (not a high hurdle) on team defense and Amare should show significant improvement on D. But don't expect him to be a 10 plus rebound guy. That's not Amare's game.
I look for Amare to get a few blocks and a steal or two but his impact will be on the stuff that doesn't have a stat line. Help defense, trapping the ball on pick and rolls and using his abilities to be disruptive on the defensive end.