The Miami Heat looked to be in trouble with injuries mounting in the front court, but Amar’e Stoudemire stepped up and showed he still has something left to provide.
The Miami Heat looked like they would be in big trouble with Hassan Whiteside dealing with nagging injuries and being forced from the lineup. Their depth in the frontcourt was already being tested with Chris Andersen, Udonis Haslem and Josh McRoberts playing in 57 games combined. In addition, Amar’e Stoudemire was being put on ice, barely getting off the bench despite so little healthy players for the front court.
But, with Whiteside sidelined, Erik Spoelstra decided to go to Stoudemire in the starting lineup. It was a risky move, as Stoudemire had played in only three of the Heat’s first 28 games of the season, registering a total of 27 minutes. But, there aren’t many players that prepare as diligently as Stoudemire does, as he remained ready, patiently waiting to receive his chance to help the Heat win basketball games.
The Whiteside injury gave him exactly that chance, and Stoudemire has taken full advantage. In the six games Whiteside was sidelined for, Stoudemire averaged 9.8 points, 8.7 rebounds in 22.5 minutes per game, also adding four assists, four blocks and six steals.
Stoudmire provided two double-doubles in that time span, as the Heat went 4-2 despite being shorthanded. One of those victories was an impressive showing against the Atlanta Hawks, where Stoudemire recorded one of his double-doubles in a 105-87 blowout victory.
With his strong play, and the success that Stoudemire had in the starting lineup, he has actually stayed in the starting lineup despite Whiteside being healthy enough to play in the last four games. Despite Whiteside coming back and his minutes dipping a little bit, Stoudemire has still remained extremely productive while on the court.
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Despite averaging only 15.5 minutes per game in those four contests, Stoudemire has still provided solid production. He is averaging only 4.3 points per game, but has pulled down an impressive 6.5 rebounds per game to go with eight blocks and four assists. Even in limited minutes, Stoudemire has still managed to make an impact to help out the Heat.
Having Whiteside come off the bench was a gutsy move by Spoelstra, but something that actually strengthens the team. With Stoudemire playing next to Chris Bosh, the Heat have more spacing in their starting unit. Stoudemire also allows Bosh to play as a stretch-four, which is what he is most comfortable playing. Despite being nowhere near as explosive and athletic as he was even just two seasons ago, Stoudemire is currently thriving in the pick-and-roll game with Goran Dragic, giving Bosh space to operate on the perimeter.
The move seems to be working for Whiteside as well, as he is playing only 20.8 minutes per game since returning, but has managed one double-double and a triple-double with blocks.
There is a chance that Spoelstra goes back to Whiteside in the starting lineup, as the Heat have dropped their lat two games to the Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs. But, no matter where he is playing, Stoudemire has shown that he is still a capable provider despite playing a reduced role minutes wise.