Working with Amar'e
It's not often NBA superstars run the floor alongside players in the NBA D-League, but this week the Erie BayHawks got the chance with the New York Knicks' Amar'e Stoudemire.
"Amar'e was a guy I watched growing up so it was a great opportunity to be able to work with him and learn from him," BayHawks big man Henry Sims said.
Stoudemire is on NBA assignment with the Erie BayHawks, the Knicks' D-League affiliate, to rehab himself from a knee injury that has kept him sidelined the entire season. The BayHawks came down to the Knicks' practice facility in Tarrytown, NY this week to run drills with six-time All-Star.
"It was a great experience for us," BayHawks coach Gene Cross said. "When you have an NBA player like Amar'e around, it's great for our atmosphere and our guys going against him. He enjoyed getting out there and getting the rust off himself and testing himself out."
"Amar'e told me a lot of little things, like working on my defensive positioning in the post and the perimeter," Sims said. "One of the toughest things to do in the NBA is defensive coverage, so he helped me a lot with that."
Cross added working with Amar'e enabled the BayHawks guys to stay hungry for a shot at cracking into an NBA roster.
"It helped motivate our guys," Cross said. "Just to get out there and test their skillsets against an NBA All-Star. He's one of the best NBA players out there right now and I thought it was good for our guys to get out there and challenge themselves."
Since the BayHawks are a single-affiliate with the Knicks, many of the plays they run are similar. Cross said the partnership made the practice sessions this week just as helpful to Stoudemire.
"It was mutually beneficial," Cross said. "He hadnt been part of a group setting in a long time, so getting into the rotation was just as good for him as it was for us."
Knicks coach Mike Woodson said he was pleased with how Stoudemire fared in his first day of action since his injury. Woodson said he'd like to explore the idea of putting other injured players on his roster on NBA assignment, like point guard Iman Shumpert, who tore his ACL in the spring and has been sidelined since.
Cross said NBA teams assigning players to the D-League for rehab is a growing trend, pointing to the Spurs assigning Kawhi Leonard to the Austin Toros as another example.
"I think this is probably where the league is going," Cross said. "That's what the D-League is about. It's a true minor league organization for the NBA. So we're always going to be happy to be apart of that and assist in any way shape or form for the betterment of the Knicks organization and our organization."
Cross said the BayHawks will work out of the Knicks facility again on Thursday.