Knicks Need S.T.A.T. to Reach Finals

The New York Knicks have started the season scorching hot. They are the last remaining undefeated team in the league and are showing no signs of slowing down. The Knicks are whipping the ball around the perimeter at a lightning pace for wide-open 3-pointers and are playing suffocating defense. Their much-maligned superstar Carmelo Anthony is thriving in his move from small forward to power forward. The Knicks resemble a title contender for the first time in over a decade, but who was the first one to proclaim the Knicks were back?

Anthony? No. Tyson Chandler? No. Jeremy Lin? Definitely not. The forgotten man is Amare Stoudemire, whose first words after signing with New York were "The Knicks are back!" But because he is nursing a knee injury that will sideline him the first six to eight weeks of the season, many Knicks fans are calling for Stoudemire to be traded or just outright cut from the team because of the squad's recent success without him.

Think back to last season, when the Knicks took the floor in the playoffs without their starting point guard in Jeremy Lin. They then lost their next two point guards in their rotation to torn ACLs and got run off the floor by the Miami Heat. Depth is never a bad thing to have because you cannot predict what the next game will bring.

It's rare to see a team be better off without a perennial All-Star forward, but many fans cite chemistry problems between Stoudemire and the more durable Anthony. The whole problem with the chemistry of the Knicks is not Stoudemire co-existing with Anthony; it's partly Stoudemire co-existing with center Tyson Chandler. Chandler plays the center spot that Stoudemire prefers and has been the one setting high screens for Raymond Felton in Mike Woodson's spaced out offense this season. Normally that would leave Stoudemire to work the high post to the wing, but Anthony resides there. That leaves Stoudemire to stand in no man's land on the opposite baseline, waiting for a skip pass to come or to crash the boards for a rebound. With Stoudemire out, the first unit has gotten comfortable in their spots, especially Ronnie Brewer, who has drilled 3-pointers at a 53 percent clip.

However, there is still room on this team for Stoudemire to play his way. Mike Woodson could bring him off the bench as his sixth man and let him play center with the second unit. A prolific scorer like Stoudemire creates space for 3-point marksmen Steve Novak and J.R. Smith to fire away. Rasheed Wallace hasn't exactly set the world on fire as of late, shooting 27 percent from downtown and looking out of shape, so Stoudemire would be a huge upgrade to the bench.

Imagine the Knicks are winning in a close game against the Miami Heat, and Anthony has just gotten in foul trouble early in the fourth quarter trying to guard LeBron James. He has to sit out and the inconsistent Smith is having one of his cold streaks, so who gets the ball? This was the case in Game 3 of the first round last season, a game in which Stoudemire could not play due to injury. The Knicks offense sputtered without a go-to guy, and they ended up blowing a game they led throughout. If they had Stoudemire to create some instant offense, maybe it's a different ending. If the Knicks plan on making it past the Miami Heat, they will most likely need to get through a situation like this one again.

Make no mistake; Stoudemire's number will be called this season. Nobody goes 82-0 and nobody goes through a full season without some injuries or bumps in the road. Hopefully Stoudemire is just getting his out of the way early.