Stoudemire spends day working to counter double-teaming Mavs
May. 19, 2005 12:00 AM
It's 8:58 a.m. on Wednesday and the patrons of a coffee shop in north-central Phoenix can't take their eyes off the door.
"Isn't that Stoudemire?" one man whispers.
"Amaré, Amaré, hi," a woman says.
Stoudemire smiles. Waves. The customers seem to delight in the knowledge that a superstar just nine hours from the biggest game of his career kick-starts his day with the fuel of the common man.
"White chocolate mocha," Stoudemire says, smiling. "Grande."
If the pressure of Game 5 against the Dallas Mavericks is weighing on Stoudemire, he's not letting on. He's the one who called this "the most important game of my life," but he's nothing but cool as he walks to his Escalade that the valet at his condominium has left for him.
Even with the weight of responsibility confronting him, Stoudemire embraces the moment. His ability to shrug off the stress of expectations is the product of a troubled, nomadic life that included his father's death when Stoudemire was 12 and his mother's multiple trips to jail. Phoenix has provided him the rarest of treats: stability.
He pulls away from his condo, his sanctuary. It's architectural high art. To reach his penthouse, the elevator must read his fingerprint. Inside, he sports a 64-inch projection screen. Outside? Five cars.
Not that he's all about the bling. Ten months ago, after Stoudemire joined a group of Suns executives flying to Dallas to court Steve Nash, new owner Robert Sarver
suggested the group celebrate with a fancy dinner. Stoudemire countered with Wendy's.
Wendy's it was.
Stoudemire arrives early for the 10 a.m. shootaround, beat to the court by only Bo Outlaw.
"I wanted to get there early and work on my counteracts to avoid double and triple teams," Stoudemire says later.
It would be a worthwhile exercise. The Mavericks on Wednesday night employed the same tactics as Game 4, sending multiple defenders on Stoudemire each time he neared the basket.
After the shootaround, coach Mike D'Antoni learns of Stoudemire's pre-practice coffee excursion.
"I thought he had a caffeine buzz going," D'Antoni jokes, before turning serious.
"He's focused and ready to go. If he really wants to be the best player ever, well, these are the times to do it. This is where you make your name."
The shootaround ends on a light note, with Stoudemire practicing one-handed free throws. A reporter asks him about comments from TNT analyst Charles Barkley that suggested Stoudemire needed to work harder to get the ball.
"I agree," Stoudemire says. "I've got to step up and demand the ball a little more. Steve (Nash) has the ball in his hands so much during the game that sometimes you have the tendency to sit back and watch and let him create. I'm a playmaker myself so I've got to do a better job of play-making."
Later that night, he did, attempting 17 shots compared with eight the previous game.
Stoudemire returns to the locker room, has his muscles iced and heads home. His chef has lunch waiting for him. He eats, speaks with his mother on the phone, watches game film and naps. He eats an early dinner and heads back to America West Arena.
Two hours remain before the 6 p.m. tip-off. Stoudemire arrives in the locker room wearing a T-shirt that features Martin Luther King Jr. and speaks of his own dreams, which include an NBA title.
He's told by reporters that he was named to the All-NBA second team.
"Way to go, dawg," Quentin Richardson
Stoudemire says, "It's cool. I'm 22 years old, so it's all right. But I'm not a huge guy when it comes to individual goals."
Stoudemire goes to his locker to change and awaits tip-off. He soon finds out that the lessons of the day would pay off.
Although he struggled early in the game, he was much more effective handling Dallas' double and triple teams. The extra work at the shootaround, the game-film session at home, paid off. Even the casual approach he took during the morning foreshadowed the evening. When the Mavericks limited him to three first-quarter points, Stoudemire shrugged it off and scored 30 points the rest of the way.
For Stoudemire, it was a good start to the day.
And it was an even better ending.