Even before Stoudemire returned to the court, there were many suggesting he was best served coming off the bench.
The Knicks’ second unit needed that offensive anchor, Anthony was more effective at power forward—those were just some of the arguments in favor of Stoudemire’s demotion.
However, if New York wishes to make any real postseason noise, Stoudemire and Anthony need to spend substantial time on the court together, leading the team together.
And contrary to what many believe, that’s far from impossible.
Though Stoudemire and Anthony have struggled to coexist for over year, the potential for the two to develop into a prolific tandem is clearly there. For it to actualize, though, the two must facilitate one another’s play styles.
When Mike D’Antoni was at the helm, Anthony received a lot of flack for his failure to embrace the head coach’s offensive philosophy. As we’ve seen even before Stoudemire’s return, though, ball movement and isolation do not have to be mutually exclusive.
Anthony is currently averaging 3.6 assists per contest, the second-highest total of his career. He’s catching passes with his head up, spotting the open man and hitting the slasher. But he’s also never played more iso-ball as member of the Knicks.
How is this possible? Because Anthony finally has the unconditional green light.
When Mike D’Antoni was at the helm, the small forward was being forced out of his comfort zone and his numbers suffered. Subsequently, he was deviating from scripted plays, attempting to ensure he created scoring opportunities.
But that’s all in the past. Anthony is now expected to take control on offense, expected to take the shot and it has rendered him one of the most complete offensive players in the league over the past month.
So, for Stoudemire and Anthony to work together, Stat must first and foremost except his role as Melo’s sidekick, so to speak.
What Stoudemire did for the Knicks last season cannot be discounted, but the reality is, Anthony is a more versatile scorer, and therefore the more lethal scoring threat and better first option.
Like Stoudemire, Anthony can spot-up and hit the jumper, roll over screens and finish strong at the rim. He can also put the ball on the floor and create his own offense, though, something Stoudemire often attempts to do, but is hardly effective at.
Over his nine-year career, Anthony has hardly embraced the art of pick-and-rolls and hitting the cutter. But not anymore.
As long as Anthony has the unconditional green light, his newfound appreciation for teammates will remain strong and Stoudemire is going to receive opportunities to score.
Not only is Anthony often double-teamed, but he’s more willing to work off others on offense now that their willing to let him post up.
Coincidentally, those are two aspects of the game Stoudemire thrives in, and two that he and Anthony must utilize moving forward.
From here on out, it’s all about give and take, all about facilitating the strengths of the other.
Stoudemire must acknowledge his teammate’s effectiveness as the first offensive option and must put the ball in his hands anytime he finds himself in isolation while Anthony must reward his big man for sprinting through the paint and rolling over screens.
Of course, the Knicks want to get to a point where Stoudemire and Anthony are hardly ever on the sidelines together. While that means playing one without the other more than occasionally, the Knicks also want to get to a point where their dynamic duo is just that, a cohesive dynamic.
And reaching that point is all about compromise and self-awareness. It’s what we saw from the two in Atlanta on Sunday and it’s what we must see from them in the postseason.
As well as for seasons to come.
Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com