GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Amar'e Stoudemire has been a six-time All-Star and the focal point of an offense. He owns one of the NBA's richest contracts. But his pursuit of a piece of jewelry has made him a better teammate.
Stoudemire, like many of the established Knicks, wants a championship ring. Mike Woodson thinks the best way to win one is with Stoudemire coming off the bench but finishing games. Stoudemire, 30, believes in his coach and has accepted his new role more professionally than some other high-profile players might have.
"I just think he senses a sense of urgency in terms of our team and the makeup of our team that we have to win now," Woodson said after practice Thursday.
"It doesn't matter who starts and who plays all the minutes. I always believe it's about who finishes the game. He's accepted his role. That just tells me that he's on board, he's trying to help us win and it doesn't matter what the situation is. He's going to do whatever it takes to help us win."
Stoudemire missed the first 30 games after undergoing left knee surgery. Since returning New Year's Day, he steadily has gotten more comfortable, to the point that he's having a major impact for the Knicks, who will go for their third straight victory Friday night against the Bucks.
He shot 7-for-7 and scored 14 points in Wednesday's win over Orlando, and is averaging 16.5 points in his last six games.
Stoudemire said it didn't take any soul-searching to embrace his new role. "I didn't really put much thought into it at all," he said. "I had confidence in coach Woodson to know what it takes for this team to win. These guys study the game twice as much as any player does, and he understands what it takes for us to be successful. Once the coaching staff presented me with the opportunity to better the team, I was totally open to it."
Stoudemire has shown an improved post game from his work over the summer with Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon and is committing more than ever to defense. How well he meshes with Carmelo Anthony will be the true measure of how far the Knicks go.
Woodson said he will play the two of them with Tyson Chandler more as the season progresses. The trio totaled 55 points Wednesday and look more comfortable together than they did last season.
"Everyone has expanded their game for the betterment of the team and wanting to win," Stoudemire said. "I also think us being together for a while has helped us with that. We watch film, we study the game, and coach Woodson is a major reason for that and also to figure out how to make it fit with all three of us out there. And we have the same common denominator of wanting to win a championship.''
Notes & quotes: Jason Kidd, who missed Wednesday's game with a sore lower back, expects to play Friday night. Woodson said Kidd will start.