**This piece was written by Rhonda Dearborn, the newest contributor at Knicks Journal.**
On the face of it, Amar’e Stoudemire and Rodney Dangerfield are as far apart as two people can be. One is a thoroughbred athlete in the prime of his career, proving his detractors wrong and turning around an erstwhile losing franchise with his every block, dunk and supportive shout-out to a teammate. The other was (unfortunately now deceased) an uproarious comedian and actor, famous for self-deprecating humor. His catchphrase was the always guffaw-inducing “I tell ya, I get no respect.”
Besides both having a connection to the Jewish faith, the two couldn’t be more contrary in looks, demeanor, or the way each of them resonates with different segments of society. However, looking beyond the surface, we can see that they both had tough roads to hoe, each coming from difficult childhoods and having to overcome challenges to get to the top of their respective vocations.
More recently, it has become quite apparent that despite being a three-time NBA All-Star, “Rookie of the Year”, an Olympian, as well as a very strong candidate for this year’s MVP award, he does not seem to get the benefit of the doubt from referees. The so-called “Jordan rules” have yet to apply. No star treatment for Amar’e!? What an outrage!
When he receives his league leading 13th technical foul (having just received his twelfth in the Knicks' loss to the Suns on Monday, tying him with Dwight Howard for the league lead), it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Stoudemire turn to his bench, throw his hands in the air and shout, “I tell ya, I get no respect.”
While some of these fouls are certainly warranted, (even under the old standards for calling technical fouls), the new “more respect for the game” mentality has impacted Amar’e negatively. These new rules, flawed in design and intent, are so subjective and inconsistently applied; it puts in stark relief the ways in which certain players are given special treatment versus others, who are perhaps more “expendable.” In several instances, Stoudemire has been given technical fouls for simply clapping his hands. Clapping hands. . . really? While the inanity goes on, we still see other stars such as Paul Pierce complain equally or more vociferously, only to be given a free pass. Why?
Amar’e is currently averaging a career high in personal fouls at 3.7 a game this season, with a career average of 3.5. One would think the current co-captain of the NBA franchise that calls the “World’s Most Famous Arena” its home would garner a little more of that “special treatment” we so often get a glimpse of whenever the likes of LeBron James, Dwayane Wade or Kobe Bryant make their way to the Garden. Somehow this treatment (or lack there of) reminds me of another superstar who also wore the orange and blue and was a perennial all-star that led his team season-in and season-out…he didn’t get much respect either…but that’s another story.
There have been several games where the Knicks have suffered a scoring drought and have looked uneven; limited even, with Stoudemire forced to watch and root his team on from the bench due to foul trouble. Some of these instances where he has had to sit have been extensive, including the Knicks' January 17th matchup with the Jazz in Utah. That same occurrence may very well have cost the Knicks the opportunity to win that game.
As we have all witnessed, Amar’e Stoudemire came to New York, proudly proclaiming, “The Knicks are back!” He has backed up every word by his actions on and off the court. He has surprised many and converted doubters to true believers. Knick fans are energized, our passions ignited; we are enamored by Amare’s leadership and personality. He has embraced the city, the fans and the weight of the enormous expectations with which this franchise is encumbered. Previously knocked for his inability to lead, he is truly the leader that the naysayers said he could never be. Maybe the respect is starting to come.
Ultimately, it may require head coach Mike D’Antoni to step up, take the financial hit and forcefully vent to the media proclaiming his All-Star power forward and MVP candidate doesn’t get the respect he deserves. The officials have targeted him unfairly.
Pat Riley would do it. Jeff Van Gundy would also come to the defense of his All-Star. Come on D’Antoni, say it: “Amar’e. . . I tell ya, he gets no respect.”