Amar'e Stoudemire was in a personal funk during his second season with the Knicks, forced to deal with several issues that ultimately took their toll.
"Last season," the Knicks power forward said Monday, "was probably the hardest season I've had in my career."
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Enter Hakeem Olajuwon.
Stoudemire has developed a new low-post game during the offseason with private lessons down in Houston with Hall-of-Fame center Olajuwon. Knicks coach Mike Woodson is a former teammate of Olajuwon, and he asked him to work with Stoudemire.
Woodson, according to Stoudemire, believes it is extremely important for the Knicks' 6-11 big man to become more of a low-post threat because the coach wants to employ an inside-out type of offense. So he needs someone in the low post other than Carmelo Anthony who can score with his back to the basket.
"I'm looking forward to showing my opponents my moves that I've been working on with Hakeem," Stoudemire said. "There's so many moves that I picked up from Hakeem. Just developing my post game has been phenomenal for me. When I came out of high school, I was just thrown the ball and they said, 'Do what you do best.' I never got a chance to develop my game as far as a post player.
"So now working with Hakeem, it's going to be a great advantage for me."
Stoudemire turns 30 in November and no longer can leap tall buildings in a single bound like he did when he entered the league at 18. Expanding his repertoire was a necessity.
"It's just another threat, another area on the court that I can work on and try to perfect," Stoudemire said.
Stoudemire was rehabilitating a back injury last offseason and was unable to play basketball. Cardiovascular work also was out of the question, so he wound up coming into camp after the NBA lockout a bit overweight -- as did other players in the league -- and had to work back into shape on the fly.
Then, things really got difficult in February when his older brother Hazell Stoudemire was killed in a car accident in Florida. And who can forget that whole fire extinguisher incident in April? Stoudemire lacerated his left hand after punching the glass case protecting a fire extinguisher outside the Knicks' locker room at AmericanAirlines Arena, and missed Game 3 of the their first-round playoff series loss to the Heat.
"So it was a tough year for me," Stoudemire said Monday at an appearance at a Manhattan Barnes & Noble to promote his children's book "STAT: Home Court."
"And then falling short in the first round of the playoffs, that's not what I do, that's not what I've built my career on. I've been going deep into the playoffs since I've been playing. So it was a tough year for me, but everything has a past and now I feel phenomenal."