Knicks 'zzone

Newsday's Al Iannazzone takes you inside the Knicks.

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Amar'e not backing out of China trip

Amar'e Stoudemire talks to the media as the

Amar'e Stoudemire talks to the media as the Knicks cleaned out their lockers in Greenburgh, N.Y. (Apr. 25, 2011) (Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy)

There is no urgency right now within the NBA's lockout. There is no anger and no outrage. Heck, there aren't even any real negotiations going on. There is only China, and the marketing riches that sing to the game's biggest stars and iconically promoted by the game's biggest brand.

And, as Carmelo recently experienced, the opportunity to hug a panda.

Lockout or not, this time of year has always been dominated by Nike. Why else would Kevin Durant be in New York City, playing before delirious crowds in various summer games as he hangs at mid-court awaiting long passes for fast break dunks and hovers around the perimeter with the sole intention to jack up threes? 

And why else would Amar'e Stoudemire, who for the last four months has dealt with -- and regularly mentioned -- the chronic pain stemming from the pulled muscle in his lower back, sit in an airplane for a 13 hour flight to China?

Stoudemire is leaving for his Nike-sponsored China tour on Aug. 17, just after Carmelo Anthony (and the awaiting final piece of the Knicks' Trio Grande, Chris Paul) returned from the Jordan Brand trip.

But take heart, Fixers, Stoudemire is also still determined to get the fellas together for a few workouts. The plan currently being put into place is to meet up at the IMG facility in Bradenton, Fla. in September for a Stoudemire-sponsored minicamp.

"I'll have them all meet at IMG, put them all in apartments, feed them breakfast and lunch -- they're on their own for dinner," Stoudemire told SI.com's Sam Amick in Los Angeles last week.

In confirming these plans, I'm told Stoudemire is scheduled to have his back re-examined this week and expects to be cleared to resume workouts and basketball activities. Let's see how he does after 26 hours of air travel.

An early September workout would be a good warmup for training camp, which is scheduled to begin in the last weekend of September. But as long as Jeffrey Kessler is dominating the meetings -- whenever the league and union do meet -- then this IMG workout might be the only time we see the Knicks together on the court in the 2011 calendar year.

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* - Perhaps the lockout is just what the, well, doctor ordered for the Knicks Big Three: Amar'e's back, Carmelo's elbow and Chauncey's knee. Speaking of Billups, who stands to lose more than he does if the NBA loses games or, perhaps, the entire season? He's waited his entire career for this $14 million payday that comes with the 2011-12 season. Instead, he could stand to lose half or even all of it.

Where is the NBPA in protecting Chauncey's interests here?

But let's keep promoting how easily Kobe Bryant will make $1.5 million a month playing in Turkey while the majority of the 400-plus members of the players union stand to lose millions if games are lost.

It's much too early in the process for players to start speaking out against the union's stubbornness, but once games are cancelled, you'll start to see the frustration mount. Once the European opportunities dry up -- remember, there are rules that limit the amount of American players per roster and the Chinese Basketball Association won't allow contracts with NBA lockout-related opt-outs -- the hundreds of players (and their agents) will start paying closer attention.

Some already are.

"It never should have gotten to this point," one NBA veteran told me recently. "It never should have gotten to a stand off."

* - Speaking of reaching a point of concern, Mike D'Antoni's search for a defensive assistant is even less eventful than the collective bargaining talks. As we told you here, Lawrence Frank was a front-runner until he emerged as the Detroit Pistons' choice to take over as head coach. 

The other finalist for the Pistons job, Mike Woodson, was immediately linked to the Knicks' opening.

The issue, as we've told you before, with this hire is that whomever takes the job will likely have to do so with a one-year deal because D'Antoni has only a year left on his contract. But for candidates such as Frank and Woodson, who have head coaching ambition, a short-term deal is a better fit.

The question is, does Woodson really fit the role?

Some suggest Woodson, who had some success with the Atlanta Hawks, would be a bit of a threat to D'Antoni. But, in all honesty, no one will cast a greater shadow over D'Antoni through the coming year than Phil Jackson.

* - As for the other search the Knicks franchise is supposed to be conducting - Donnie Walsh's successor -- there clearly isn't a great deal of urgency in competing for candidates such as Kevin Pritchard or Ed Stefanski when, internally, there is a great deal of confidence in the group currently assembled, with Glen Grunwald and Mark Warkentien as the key figures and Allan Houston as the heir presumptive.

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