Amar'e Stoudemire promises to play like old self
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Amar'e Stoudemire admits he hasn't been playing with the same explosiveness this season, but he said this season is far from over. He expects himself and the Knicks to be a force over the final 31 regular-season games and in the playoffs.
"We feel that we have enough on this team to win a championship," Stoudemire said after practice Tuesday. "We have the right personnel, the right players and the right mind frame. It's a matter of us going out and playing the right way. And if we do that, we can do something special."
If the Knicks, who host the Cavaliers Wednesday night, are to do something special, they'll need Stoudemire to lift his game after a subpar first half. Lift is the operative word, because he seems to have lost some of it.
He's averaging 17.5 points, shooting 44.7 percent and hasn't been finishing around the rim the way he did in the past. When asked if he could get his explosiveness back, Stoudemire said: "Stay tuned. Stay tuned."
He and coach Mike D'Antoni pointed out several reasons why the Knicks' big man doesn't look like the same player he was last season. It wasn't mentioned, but the emotional strain of losing his older brother in a car wreck this month undoubtedly has had some effect on him.
Stoudemire spent most of the offseason strengthening his back to try to prevent some issues he had last year. He said he wasn't cleared to play full-court "until a little bit before training camp," and his rhythm has suffered.
He also added about 15 pounds of muscle and came into this season at about 260; he played at 245 last season. D'Antoni has talked to Stoudemire about "getting his pop back." Stoudemire said he's been shedding some of that weight, hoping it helps his mobility.
"All of that might have played a factor," Stoudemire said. "There's no excuse for that. I wanted to get stronger. I wanted to definitely heal my back. From a health standpoint, I feel great, but now it's time to tune it up a little bit and play great basketball."
It's been a stark contrast from last season, when Stoudemire was dominant, averaging 25.3 points and shooting 50.2 percent. Over the first three months of the season he scored at least 20 points 38 times and 30 or more 16 times. He had a streak of 26 games with at least 20 points. In this campaign, he has played 29 games and scored 20 only 11 times and 30 once.
D'Antoni said some of Stoudemire's drop-off is a byproduct of not having a point guard to run the pick-and-roll early this season. Jeremy Lin has filled that void, and D'Antoni expects him to end the season impressively.
"Some of it's psychological," D'Antoni said. "I think he's raring to go and wants to have a great 31 games and into the playoffs. I'm counting on him. I'm betting on him.
"Physically, he's great. Did he put on a couple of pounds to get muscle? Maybe. He went through all of this stuff to do everything he can to be physically ready. Like I said, a lot of it is psychological. I think he's ready to explode."