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Amar'e, quite contrary

We've mostly heard about Chris Bosh being the big whom the Knicks would target in this summer's two-star rebuild plan. Joe Johnson/Chris Bosh has most often been promoted in media reports as a probable dynamic duo.

But Amar'e's play this season -- and the torrid run he's been on over the last few weeks (oh and have you seen The Dunk?) -- has to have caught the Knicks' attention. Bosh is certainly a talent and putting up great numbers this season, but there is a reasonable level of concern about his personality being right for the intensity of New York. Stoudemire, who re-tweeted himself to double promote a link to the aforementioned dunk, seems to thrive on attention and coverage.

And as he's come back after a serious eye injury, which almost cost him his career, Stoudemire's game is back to being as physically dominant as any big man in the game.

Now we all know LeBron James is the main target, that is, if he decides he does want to leave Cleveland. What we also know is that LeBron did everything he could to get the Cavaliers to trade for Amar'e Stoudemire before the Feb. 18 trade deadline. The Cavs almost gave up a talented youngster in J.J. Hickson just to make it happen.

Imagine that tandem for a second. The power and athleticism of both players would be something the NBA has never seen on the same team. Just imagine seeing those two roaring at you on a 2-on-1. In fact, even if it were a 2-on-3, you might still have reason to believe they have numbers.

As a pick-and-roll duo, it could be literally unstoppable. LeBron's ability (and, more importantly, willingness) to pass and Amar'e's ferocious ability to finish not only on the cut, but also with a mid-range touch, would be a defensive nightmare that would make even Tom Thibodeau wake in a cold sweat.

Really, how do you guard that? Don't hedge on the screen? Go under?

Switch?

Yeah, that'll work.

Ray Lewis and Jonathan Vilma couldn't even guard that.

Here's the thing: I know Ric Bucher, a well-connected veteran from the Worldwide Leader, recently reported a source telling him the key to luring LeBron would be Joe Johnson. But I'm telling you the key to LeBron might actually be Amar'e.

Now, yes, Mike D'Antoni factors in here. First, of course, Amar'e has thrived playing in the pick-and-roll, spread-offense system in Phoenix (which Alvin Gentry now runs in D'Antoni's wake). Now, we all remember how Amar'e was one of the few Suns who didn't seem all that broken up by D'Antoni's departure in May 2008. In fact, Stoudemire spoke in past tense about D'Antoni before he and the Suns had even agreed to part ways.

And after D'Antoni left, Stoudemire wasn't very complimentary of D'Antoni in interviews with both Dime and SLAM.

But a Stoudemire confidant told me tonight that Stoudemire maintains a great deal of respect for his former coach (and, despite typical frustrations, D'Antoni has always privately praised Stoudemire as a tremendous talent).

And, yes, their relationship will matter come July when Stoudemire considers his options as a free agent. Staying in Phoenix is a large part of the equation, but it sounds like Stoudemire's main concern with the Suns is how much they are committed to keeping the team at a contending level after Steve Nash's contract runs out in 2012. If he's not convinced, then he'll look to teams with cap space and a plan. The Nets and Bulls don't even have coaches.

But when it comes to the Knicks, what would have to come first? LeBron to attract Amar'e or Amar'e to attract LeBron?

What would you say if I told you neither?

See, if we're to be resigned to the belief that LeBron won't leave Cleveland -- even if he dips his foot in the free agency pool -- then, Fixers, you should know this fact: Amar'e and Joe Johnson are also very tight.

* * *

* - I am officially a Butler fan for the rest of the tournament. Any team with a kid named Zach Hahn I must root for, since that's my son's name, too. In fact, since I'll be in Salt Lake City this weekend, I've offered my services to Newsday to cover the West Region Final between the Bulldogs and Kansas State on Saturday.

 

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