The Knicks won't have a representative on the court when the U.S. plays in the World Championships next month in Turkey. Amar'e Stoudemire, who seemed a lock as the starting power forward for the Americans, has been told by his new team that his $100 million body is not allowed to to play.
The Knicks are in the process of securing insurance on the final four years of Stoudemire's five-year, $99.9 million contract, which he signed on July 8. The three-time second team All-NBA selection has the first year covered by extension of a policy that he had with the Phoenix Suns, which was transferred to the Knicks in the sign-and-trade. The policy, however, has an exclusion on his left knee, which underwent microfracture surgery in 2005.
The Knicks are erring on the side of caution here. Stoudemire just finished a playoff run that went into early June with the Suns in the Western Conference Finals. To have him play with the U.S. team from now through Sept. 13 -- the date of the gold medal game in the Worlds -- and then have him back for training camp on Sept. 24 only to fly back to Europe on Oct. 2 for two exhibition games is a demanding schedule for a player the Knicks need to have fresh and ready to play at a high level early this coming season.
"He understands," Stoudemire's agent, Happy Walters, told Newsday, "but he's very disappointed. Amar'e really wanted to play for USA Basketball."
Stoudemire has been training in Las Vegas and was supposed to begin workouts with USA Basketball this week. But Donnie Walsh informed USA Basketball CEO Jerry Colangelo that Stoudemire would not be permitted to play. The NBA contacted the Knicks on Friday to inform the team that, because of the insurance exclusion, the team had the right to hold the player out of participation with USA Basketball.
"We've got $100 million on there, it's not one year, it's the whole thing," Walsh said. "I think that, plus the fact that the kid played deep into the playoffs and would have played from today until Sept. 13 and then started up with us on Sept. 24, we thought, 'Wow, this is pushing a guy that we haven't had here to see exactly where he is and how we're going to deal with him.
"We told Amar'e and he really wanted to play. He wanted to play. But in the long run, he accepted it and said, 'Look, you guys committed to me, I commit to you. If you don't want me to play, I won't play'."
Stoudemire hopes to be able to play for the US team in 2012 at the London Olympics and by then the Knicks will have insurance on the contract and possibly an extra policy that covers his left knee. It'll be interesting to see if he, or Chris Bosh (a 2008 Olympian who pulled out of the Worlds along with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade) is the choice at power forward next to Dwight Howard. It should be noted that not a single player from the '08 gold medal team accepted an invite to play this summer at the World Championships.
Stoudemire will stay in Vegas for the week and continue to train on his own. He is expected to begin the process of moving his family to New York over the next month and, with the Worlds no longer clogging his schedule, the plan is to work out at the MSG Training Center in Westchester at least a week before camp is scheduled to open on Sept. 24th.