Amar'e Stoudemire: 'I've never been taught defense'

Amar'e Stoudemire gets set for a play during

Amar'e Stoudemire gets set for a play during a game against the Portland Trail Blazers. (Jan. 1, 2013) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Amar'e Stoudemire's surgically repaired left knee felt good the day after he made his season debut. Now he expects his production to increase and his defense to improve.

Mike Woodson is the reason Stoudemire said he will be better defensively and seemed to take an unintentional shot at his former offensive-minded coach Mike D'Antoni.

"Just having a defensive coach for the first time in my career is going to help," Stoudemire said. "I've never been taught defense in my whole career. To now have a coach that actually teaches defense and teaches strategies and knows positioning and posture and how to guard different plays is going to be helpful. I'm going to take it as a challenge, accept the challenge and try to improve as a player."

Stoudemire, a high school-to-NBA player, was selected in the first round in 2002 by Phoenix and had eight seasons with the Suns and D'Antoni as his head coach before coming to the Knicks.

Woodson, who was the Knicks' defensive assistant under D'Antoni last season before becoming head coach, has changed the way they guard the pick-and-roll this year. Stoudemire is a little behind in where he needs to be defensively and in the terminology, and was out of position several times Tuesday against the Trail Blazers. He was not the only Knick.

Woodson harped on defense throughout Wednesday's practice because the Knicks have had major slippage on that end of the court. They have allowed at least 100 points in eight of their last 12 games. They yielded 100 five times in the first 19. Woodson hinted at switching up the starting lineup Thursday night against San Antonio since the Knicks have opened games flat lately. But Stoudemire won't be the new addition.

Woodson isn't divulging Stoudemire's long-term role. For now, at least, Woodson says Stoudemire will come off the bench and play limited minutes. To his credit, Stoudemire continues to say this works for him, especially if the Knicks are winning. "Depending on how we're playing, if we're playing well, I have no problem coming off the bench," Stoudemire said.

Stoudemire appears more concerned with getting his rhythm and timing back so he can make the decision to reinsert him in the starting lineup easy for Woodson. Stoudemire worked on his shot Wednesday long after his teammates left the gym.

He missed his first five shots in Tuesday's debut and ended up 3-for-8 in 17 minutes. Woodson said Stoudemire would play similar minutes Thursday night.

"He can't play a lot of minutes right now," Woodson said.

Although Stoudemire started 417 consecutive games before Tuesday, he said this role is not strange to him. He came off the bench in Phoenix in 2006-07 after returning from microfracture knee surgery. That lasted four games and then Stoudemire returned to the starting lineup and made the first of five straight All-Star teams. He expects similar results now.

"I got back in rhythm, got back in top shape and then I was back to where I was before the injury," Stoudemire said. "I don't expect nothing less."

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