In a bit of a surprise, Amar'e Stoudemire -- and not Carmelo Anthony -- addressed the crowd at the Garden before the Knicks' season opener last night.
It was the second surprise involving Stoudemire. The first was when coach Derek Fisher named the veteran as the starter at power forward against the Bulls.
Stoudemire started one game in the preseason -- at center in place of Samuel Dalembert. Fisher had given no indication in recent days that he was considering Stoudemire as his starting power forward when the season began.
"It's great," Stoudemire said. "It's what I've been working for all summer . . . Now that I'm here, I feel like all the hard work has paid off."
Stoudemire came out like he was 25 again, hitting his first four shots as the Knicks took an early lead. Included were a pair of dunks, one on a fast-break feed from Anthony and the other on a sweet bounce pass from Dalembert.
Alas, those were the only points Stoudemire scored in the half -- his only shot attempt of the second quarter was blocked by Taj Gibson -- and the Knicks trailed at intermission 53-43.
In the second half, they trailed by as many as 35 points in their 104-80 defeat. Stoudemire finished with 12 points and eight rebounds in 23:55.
"Tonight was a loss where we know we've got work to do," he said. "We're still trying to figure it out. Offense wasn't flowing the way we wanted it to and our defense didn't pick up from there. A tough loss, but we have a game [tonight]."
With the Knicks facing LeBron James and the Cavaliers in Cleveland tonight, Fisher would not commit to Stoudemire starting again.
Stoudemire started on opening night for the Knicks in 2010-11 and 2011-12, but not the last two seasons.
"Either way it goes is fine," Stoudemire said. "I feel great. Regardless of whether I'm starting or not, I'm still going to have my same motivation and determination."
With Andrea Bargnani injured, Fisher had indicated he was choosing between Jason Smith and Quincy Acy and was committed to using Stoudemire off the bench.
So what led to the change?
"Just after kind of looking at matchups and teams that we're going to see in the Eastern Conference and some of the things we've seen from Amar'e," Fisher said before the game. "We feel good about having those two bigs out there to start the game tonight."