This was a bittersweet day for the Knicks, who were thrilled to officially introduce Amar'e Stoudemire as their newest star but melancholy about their loss in the LeBron James Sweepstakes. But the message that was sent - and consistent throughout yesterday's news conference right on the Garden floor - was that it takes a certain kind of person to handle the New York stage.

And maybe those who opted not to sign with the Knicks this summer - ahem, LeBron - aren't up for the challenge.

"It takes courage," team owner James Dolan said from the podium, "to play where the lights shine the brightest."

The Knicks celebrated Stoudemire, a three-time All-NBA second-team selection, as the kind of player they want: one who wants them and wants everything New York has to offer, good and bad.

"I do think that's a reality; it's a big stage and not every single player, when you really get to it, wants that stage," Donnie Walsh said. "We want the ones that do."

In Stoudemire, they at least have one who does. The concerns about his left knee (microfracture surgery in 2005) are countered by the fact that he is a diet and fitness fanatic who goes to great lengths to keep the muscles around the knee strong. He is extremely disciplined - a year ago, Stoudemire had to lie facedown for 22 hours in a dark room after surgery to repair a detached retina - and, as evidenced by ferocious games against some of the top forwards in the NBA, he doesn't avoid competition.

"It may be daunting for some people, but that's what I like about Amar'e; it's not daunting to him," Mike D'Antoni said. "Amar'e won't back down from this challenge."

The Knicks knew that they were selling an unfurnished home here and hoped to find at least one player - preferably two - who were willing to be the first pieces of a long-awaited rebuilding project.

Other teams had more to offer James - the Bulls have Derrick Rose; the Cavaliers have a team that won 61 games last season; the Heat has, well, Dwyane Wade and now Chris Bosh - but the Knicks possessed their own icons they thought would entice LeBron: the Garden stage and New York City.

"When I come down the Hudson [Parkway], I'm like, 'Give me a break. This is the best place to be,' " D'Antoni said. "It's exciting, the resources are here and we're ready to roll."

Now they have to roll in a different direction. The next step could involve a sign-and-trade that sends David Lee to the Warriors for a few players, mainly 6-11 forward Anthony Randolph, whom the Knicks have coveted since the 2008 draft, and forwards Kelenna Azubuike and Ronny Turiaf.

Of course, the more critical area of need is at point guard. Stoudemire flourished in Phoenix while playing with two-time MVP Steve Nash. There isn't a point guard of that caliber on the open market or available by trade. The closest thing would be Tony Parker, whom the San Antonio Spurs are not yet ready to deal.

The Knicks are more likely to look at free agents such as Raymond Felton or Luke Ridnour, but neither is at the level that would suggest this to be a playoff-caliber team, even with Stoudemire.

Of course there's always the less aggressive approach, one in which they would maintain cap flexibility and perhaps make a run at Parker or Carmelo Anthony, who are scheduled to be free agents next summer. Then there are Chris Paul and Deron Williams in 2012. But pose that to D'Antoni, who signed a five-year contract in May 2008, and you get a frown.

"I've been waiting a while," D'Antoni said. "I'm about tired of waiting."

The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Knicks, MSG and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.