Knicks’ Stoudemire Working to Put New Spin on His Career

By the time the Knicks were shoved out of the playoffs in Miami, Stoudemire appeared diminished on every level, his Q-rating and efficiency rating in simultaneous free fall.

“I’m still that player I was last year,” Stoudemire insisted then, vowing a return to full strength and “an incredible year” next season.

The mission began last week, on a quiet ranch in Katy, Tex., where Stoudemire took the first drop-step in a midcareer makeover. The pick-and-rolling, power-dunking star is now a student of the low post. His teacher is a soft-spoken Hall of Famer with a Nigerian accent and two championship rings.

, a former Houston Rockets star and an oracle of the low post, is pleased with his pupil’s progress.

“You won’t believe it,” Olajuwon said in a telephone interview from his ranch outside Houston.

The apprenticeship began on Aug. 6, with daily three-hour sessions on Olajuwon’s private court. Stoudemire has proved a quick study, assimilating moves and countermoves as fast as Olajuwon can demonstrate them.

“It’s night and day,” Olajuwon said. “What’s so nice is he wants it; he likes the post. He’s always wanted to play there, but he doesn’t have the moves that would give him that option.”

Since retiring in 2002, Olajuwon has become the N.B.A.’s go-to source for players hoping to develop their post skills. LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant have visited the Olajuwon ranch. So have Marcin Gortat and the Lopez twins, Brook and Robin. This month, it’s Stoudemire and Denver’s JaVale McGee.

Most players come for about four days, Olajuwon said. Stoudemire is staying for two weeks. His motivation is clear.

Stoudemire’s 17.5-point scoring average in 2011-12 was his worst in a full season since his rookie year. His .483 field-goal percentage was the lowest since his second season. He had his shot blocked 1.3 times per game, furthering speculation that his body was breaking down (although, in fact, that rate was close to his career average).

When the season began, Stoudemire was still dealing with the aftermath of an injured back muscle. In February, his older brother, Hazell, was killed in a car accident, which took a tremendous emotional toll. Stoudemire sustained another back injury (a bulging disk) in late March.

The final injury was self-inflicted and humiliating — a lacerated left hand sustained when Stoudemire smashed a glass fire-extinguisher cover in the Miami arena, after a Game 2 loss to the Heat.

Stoudemire returned to help lead the Knicks to a series-saving Game 4 victory, but the damage to his reputation was done. And although he is known for a high work ethic, Stoudemire had reason to work a little harder this summer.

“This is the most engaged I’ve seen him in years,” said Happy Walters, Stoudemire’s agent. He added, “I think fans will be happy.”

They will be happier still if Stoudemire’s new skills foster a better dynamic with Carmelo Anthony, his All-Star tag-team partner. Stoudemire was a dominant scorer when he joined the Knicks, but his role and production diminished once Anthony arrived in February 2011. The Knicks have a losing record with Anthony and Stoudemire in the lineup, and every advanced statistic shows they are worse when both stars are on the court.

Now Stoudemire has lost the coach (Mike D’Antoni) and the offensive system that made him a star in Phoenix and New York. Without a steady diet of pick-and-roll plays, he will need other ways to score. Enter Olajuwon.

Mike Woodson, the new coach, was Olajuwon’s teammate for two years, and the two remain friends. It was Woodson’s idea to send Stoudemire to Houston.

“The coach, he has a good vision,” Olajuwon said cheerfully.

Even at 29, Stoudemire has the strength, quickness and agility to be an effective post scorer once he masters the footwork and timing.

“His spin is becoming so sharp and crisp,” Olajuwon said. “He could spin all day. He loves it.”

Until now, Stoudemire hardly needed a post game. In his first season in the league he was a high-flying 20-year-old — the Blake Griffin of his generation — before developing a sharp midrange jumper that made him nearly unguardable. He has averaged at least 20 points in seven of his N.B.A. seasons, with a career shooting percentage of .533.

Stoudemire has also played most of his career for D’Antoni, whose offense is predicated on spacing and movement, not dump-it-in-the-post sets. When Stoudemire was averaging 37 points against Tim Duncan in the Western Conference finals, no one saw much need for a low-post game.

“We had so much success with him, averaging almost 60 wins a year in Phoenix with the system the way it was,” said Phil Weber, who was on D’Antoni’s staff in both Phoenix and New York. “He could have posted up, but he was so successful.”

But circumstances have changed. D’Antoni is gone. Woodson is installing a more traditional offense. Anthony is dominating the ball on the wing. Stoudemire has little choice but to evolve.

“To now develop a post game is going to be remarkable for me,” Stoudemire told Fox 26 in Houston. “It’s going to catch a lot of my opponents off guard, and it’s going to be a great year for me.”

Olajuwon sounds just as eager to see Stoudemire unleash his new moves in the fall — and to see Woodson’s reaction. Woodson attended the first workout last week and was “very happy,” Olajuwon said.

“But if he sees now, if he sees him today,” Olajuwon continued, chuckling, “he would not believe. I’m excited.”

Jeremy Lin’s Future With Knicks Seems Uncertain

The answer, as of midnight, was anything but clear.

In a surprise move, the Knicks struck a deal to reacquire Raymond Felton, the veteran point guard, sparking immediate, furious speculation that the franchise was ready to let Lin leave for Houston.

While fans were bemoaning Lin’s possible departure on Twitter and on blogs, no one associated with the Knicks or with Lin would confirm anything late Saturday night. Speculation and anxiety ruled the evening.

Lin, a restricted free agent, signed a three-year, $25 million offer sheet with the Rockets on Friday. The paperwork was delivered to the Knicks on Saturday, starting a three-day clock for the Knicks to either match the offer or let Lin go.

The deal to reacquire Felton — who played 54 games for the Knicks in 2010-11 — was taken by many as an indication that the Knicks would let Lin depart, despite his wild success on the court last season and his global marketability.

Felton will receive a three-year, $10 million contract in a sign-and-trade deal with the Portland Trail Blazers, according to a person briefed on the details. The Knicks will also receive Kurt Thomas, another former Knick, in the deal. In exchange, Portland will receive Jared Jeffries (in a sign-and-trade arrangement), plus the nonguaranteed contract of Dan Gadzuric, the Knicks’ second-round draft pick in 2016 and the rights to two overseas players.

It has been widely assumed that the Knicks would match Houston’s offer and keep Lin, despite a salary increase to $14.9 million in the third year of the deal. Team officials have said as much for weeks, both before and after the Rockets made the offer.

Two reports late Saturday cast doubt on that assumption. The first came via the Twitter account of a South Carolina television reporter, Mark Haggard, who said that Felton had told him that the Knicks planned to let Lin leave for Houston. A short time later, Yahoo Sports reported that Lin “appears close” to joining the Rockets, in light of Felton’s deal.

Knicks officials declined to comment on the reports. Felton’s agent, Tony Dutt, could not be reached.

Coach Mike Woodson said earlier this week the Knicks would not only match Houston’s offer, but that Lin would be the team’s starting point guard. He reiterated that point even after the Knicks signed Jason Kidd, a 10-time All-Star. Woodson said that Kidd would be the backup.

Felton signed with the Knicks in July 2010 but was dealt to Denver the following February as part of the trade for Carmelo Anthony. He averaged 17.1 points and 9 assists in the former coach Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced offense.

The arrival of Felton does not necessarily spell the end of Linsanity in New York. It may simply telegraph concerns with the Knicks’ point-guard tandem. Kidd is 39, and the 23-year-old Lin is unproven over a full season. It is conceivable that Knicks officials simply want a proven veteran in case Kidd breaks down and Lin goes bust.

Teams rarely play three point guards. However, Kidd has played off guard, and it is not inconceivable that the Knicks could use all three, especially after losing Landry Fields to Toronto and given the uncertainty over Iman Shumpert, who is recovering from knee surgery.

The Knicks let Fields leave Saturday, after choosing not to match his three-year, $18.7 million offer sheet from the Toronto Raptors. That decision came after nearly three solid days of silence on the matter, in keeping with team policy. The Knicks had until Saturday night to decide on Fields, who signed his offer sheet on Wednesday.

Fields, a second-round draft pick in 2010, has started at shooting guard the last two seasons, although he struggled badly last season, averaging just 8.8 points and 4.2 rebounds a game. J. R. Smith, who re-signed with the Knicks last week, will most likely slide into Fields’s spot.

James White, who played the last two years in the highest level in Italian professional basketball, also signed a one-year contract with the Knicks. Eventually, Shumpert will return to the rotation as well, after recovering from knee surgery; he is expected to be out until January.

Rockets officials were frustrated in repeated attempts Saturday to deliver Lin’s offer sheet to the Knicks and to get the three-day clock started. The Knicks appeared to be avoiding the delivery, according to people involved in the process. The Rockets finally succeeded Saturday evening. The Knicks have until Tuesday night to decide Lin’s future.

REBOUNDS

The Nets found their backup point guard, signing C. J. Watson to a two-year deal at the veteran’s minimum. The second year is a player option. Watson, a five-year veteran, averaged 9.7 points and 4.1 assists for the Chicago Bulls last season, including 25 games as a starter when Derrick Rose was injured. Watson will play behind Deron Williams, filling one of the Nets’ biggest needs. The Nets are still searching for a backups at center and small forward and are working to re-sign Kris Humphries, their starting power forward.

Jeremy Lin Signs Offer Sheet; Knicks Have Time to React

The , however, had not received the offer, and will have until Tuesday to match the deal. They will probably take their time before the 72-hour deadline expires, a process most N.B.A. teams use to make the offering team wait while they try to get under their own salary cap.

The Rockets backloaded the third year of the contract to discourage the Knicks from matching it. Lin will make $5 million and $5.2 million the first two years but $14.9 million in the third year.

Lin agreed to sign the offer sheet more than a week ago after a meeting in Houston. The Rockets first offered a four-year deal worth $28.8 million. The fourth year of that deal was the Rockets’ option, which put the true commitment at only $19.5 million.

Earlier this week, Coach Mike Woodson said the Knicks would match Houston’s offer. Woodson also said Lin would be the Knicks’ starting point guard.

With that knowledge — and the fact that the Rockets could wait and use the moratorium on signings to restructure their offer — Houston decided to put pressure on the Knicks by increasing the salary for Lin’s third year.

In the original offer, the Rockets forced the Knicks to match a third-year salary of $9.3 million. Houston now hopes the added $5.6 million in the third year will affect the Knicks’ decision to keep Lin, a person briefed on the negotiations said.

What is clear is that both the Knicks and the Rockets feel they need Lin, who averaged 18.2 points and 7.7 assists in 25 games as a starter last season.

Houston lost Goran Dragic, who started 28 games, to the Phoenix Suns. The Rockets also traded Kyle Lowry to Toronto for a potential lottery pick, clearing salary-cap space with the hope of adding Dwight Howard.

If Lin remains with the Knicks, their 2014-15 roster will have four players — Carmelo Anthony Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Lin — making a combined $77 million.