Amar’e Stoudemire wants to win a championship, and he’s now willing to take less money and a reduced role to do it.
Perhaps sensing his opportunity for being a major contributor on a contending team slipping away, Stoudemire agreed to a veteran’s minimum contract last week with the Heat to presumably play limited minutes behind either Chris Bosh or Hassan Whiteside. Stoudemire spoke with reporters on Monday afternoon — his first media obligation with his new team — and emphasized his desire to compete for a championship.
He gave the same message to team president Pat Riley during an initial meeting about joining the Heat.
“I think with Miami, it’s now time to make a push,” Stoudemire said. “I think Riles knew how important it was to me to win now.”
Stoudemire, 32, was waived by the Knicks last February before joining the Dallas Mavericks for the veteran’s minimum. In a reduced role, Stoudemire was an effective offensive option during the Mavericks’ first-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets. The Mavericks lost in five games, but Stoudemire averaged 7.8 points and 15 minutes per game.
Knee injuries sabotaged Stoudemire’s time in New York, but the Florida native seems optimistic about next season.
“I feel great,” said Stoudemire, who grew up in Lake Wales. “We still have another three months to go before the season starts. I'm building off a strong season last year.”
Stoudemire had arthroscopic surgery on both of his knees in 2013. Known as a debridement, the procedure removes cartilage or bone from an affected area. Stoudemire’s surgery on his left knee forced him to miss the first 30 games of the 2013 season. He then had surgery on his right knee in March of 2013.
Stoudemire came off the bench for the Knicks to begin the 2013-14 season. He then moved into the starting lineup in March of 2014 and scored in double figures over 19 consecutive appearances. The Knicks finished ninth — one game out of the playoffs — in Stoudemire’s final full season in New York.
In 2014-15, Stoudemire mostly came off the bench for the Knicks and missed 17 of the team’s first 49 games. With the Knicks mired in a losing season, Stoudemire requested a release from his contract to pursue a role with a playoff contender. He then joined the Mavericks after the All-Star break.
“Amar’e’s period as a Knickerbocker has come to pass, at his request,” Knicks president Phil Jackson said at the time. “His time here should be marked by recognizing his effort — it was 100 percent.”
Despite the large number of games missed last season with the Knicks, Stoudemire said on Monday that he has had “two straight years of feeling strong.” A reduced role could help Stoudemire remain healthy throughout the season. He spoke with Riley about helping the team at either power forward or center. His role with the Heat will be clearer as the team’s roster comes into focus.
Currently, the team is carrying 17 players under contract for next season, but that’s expected to change soon. Teams can only carry 15 players during the season. There has been speculation for weeks that he Heat might trade Chris Andersen to reduce salary, and the addition of Stoudemire might be the first offseason move in that process. Andersen and Stoudemire are profoundly different players, though. Whereas Andersen was used primarily for his defense, Stoudemire plays with an offense-first mentality and his rebounding numbers have fallen off in the last few seasons.
Adapting his game to the Heat’s needs could be a challenge.
Asked what the Heat should expect from him, Stoudemire said he would do whatever coach Erik Spoelstra asked, but mentioned offense as an immediate asset.
“Obviously, I bring instant scoring,” Stoudemire said. “That’s something I’ve been doing throughout my career without a problem. That’s going to be a for sure given thing.”
As a veteran of 13 years in the NBA, Stoudemire also pointed out that his “leadership qualities are going to rub off on teammates.” That could be a reference to Whiteside, the Heat’s young center who had a few problems last season reacquainting himself with the pressures of the league.
Whiteside was ejected from games twice last season. Stoudemire, of course, knows firsthand the consequences of breaking down mentally. During the 2012 playoffs in Miami, Stoudemire lacerated his hand after punching the housing of a fire extinguisher in the visiting locker room at AmericanAirlines Arena. The Knicks lost to the Heat in five games.
Now he’s joining the team that caused him so many frustrations while in New York.
“The team I think we’ve established can be a contender in the East for sure,” Stoudemire said. “And plus with me playing back in Florida, I have a lot of roots and family and friends in Florida and that makes it as convenient for me as possible.”