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Amar'e on fire, but is he flaming out?

Amar'e Stoudemire of the New York Knicks celebrates

Amar'e Stoudemire of the New York Knicks celebrates a dunk in the second half against the Toronto Raptors. (Dec. 8, 2010) Credit: Jim McIsaac

WASHINGTON -- Amar'e Stoudemire averages 8 free throw attempts per game, which is the ninth most in the NBA, yet if you watch him on a nightly basis, you could argue that he doesn't get nearly enough calls for a player who draws a lot of contact when he goes to the rim. Stoudemire (36 points vs. Wizards) matched Willie Naulls' franchise record with his seventh straight 30-point game, but afterward admitted he is starting to feel the price of this torrid streak, which has resulted in seven straight wins for the Knicks (15-9).

Stoudemire said he is experiencing soreness in both of his thighs and in his neck from the pounding he has taken over the first 24 games of the season. Stoudemire played 42 minutes in the win over Washington and is averaging 37.2 minutes per game, which is tied with LeBron James and Russell Westbrook as the 18th-highest average in the NBA.

But despite burnout concerns, Stoudemire said he wants the heavy workload.

"I work extremely hard in the offseason to stay in top shape," he told me, "so whatever Coach Mike D'Antoni requires for me, minutes-wise, I'm totally down for it."

D'Antoni made it clear he has no plans to scale back Stoudemire's minutes or those of Raymond Felton, who is 11th in the NBA at 38.4 minutes per game.

"I just don't see the difference between playing 37 minutes per game and 35 or 34," D'Antoni said. "I've never seen the difference. I think they're fine with the minutes and we continue to monitor them and see how they feel. But they're going to have to play a significant bulk of the minutes. That's just the way life is. For us to be good, they're going to have to play a lot of minutes."

So for those wondering if the Knicks might make a trade for a power forward to spell Stoudemire or a backup point guard to relieve Felton, it appears this isn't a mission as the trade season begins to pick up. The Knicks could use some size to play next to Stoudemire, especially as insurance for Ronny Turiaf's balky knee, but D'Antoni seems to like playing this small lineup with the 6-10 Stoudemire at center and the 6-8 Wilson Chandler at power forward.

Stoudemire has always been a big minutes player, but right now his 37.2 minutes per game is a career-high. His career average is 34.4. Last season when he played in all 82 games, he averaged 34.6 minutes per game. His previous career high was in 2008-09, when he averaged 36.9 minutes per game, but that was at the four spot, with Shaquille O'Neal at center. And that was also over 53 games; he missed the final 29 games due to eye surgery.

This run he's on is what puts him in the MVP conversation, but what he does now over this tough schedule ahead is what could solidify him as a viable candidate for the award.
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* - Stoudemire's numbers are astounding over this run. He is averaging 34.4 points per game in the seven games and, with 10 rebounds against the Wizards, has also hit double-figures in rebounding in five of the seven games, which gives him seven 30-10 performances this season. He had eight for the entire 2009-10 season in Phoenix.
Overall, it was his 12th double-double, which ranks 10th in the NBA and his 26.08 points per game is third in the league right now behind just Kevin Durant (27.6) and Kobe Bryant (26.6).

* - Stoudemire did have a dubious stat with the 11 turnovers, which was a career-high and tied the franchise record previously owned by Michael Ray Richardson, who had 11 in a loss to Milwaukee on Nov. 13, 1981. Stoudemire took heart in the fact that the Knicks won despite his Cripple-Double. "If you turn the ball over that many times and still get the win," he said, "you must be a good team."

* - Danilo Gallinari said the tape on his hand was to protect a bone bruise by his thumb, which he suffered in Wednesday's win against the Raptors. It didn't seem to affect his shooting, as Gallinari hit three of five from the field, including his only three-point attempt, and nine of nine from the foul line.

* - The Knicks have won eight straight on the road, which is the second-longest streak in franchise history. The record (13) is owned by the 1969-70 championship team. The Knicks would need to record wins at Cleveland (Dec. 18), Miami (Dec. 28), Orlando (Dec. 30), at Phoenix (Jan. 7) and at the Lakers (Jan. 9) to match that record.

* - Carmelo Anthony missed his second straight game tonight (in Toronto) with a patella tendonitis, which leaves Sunday's game at the Garden somewhat uncertain. Anthony and the Nuggets will practice in Manhattan on Saturday to prepare for Sunday's noon matinee, which you know has to be a brutal tip-off time for Melo, who has a Saturday night free for his only appearance in New York City this season . . . or is it?

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