PHOENIX -- "It was awesome," Amar'e Stoudemire said, then he said it again for emphasis. "Awesome."
So it was for the Knicks forward two years ago next week, when he returned to a warm ovation from Suns fans in his first trip here as an NBA visitor. "I was very appreciative of how the fans received me there," he said after the Knicks' loss to the Lakers on Tuesday.
What was even better than the cheers was what Stoudemire did on the court, scoring 23 points to help his new team blow out his old team, 121-96, with Suns fans booing and owner Robert Sarver watching uncomfortably. (Raymond Felton, in his first Knicks stint, had a triple-double that night.)
As the Suns and Sarver had feared when they declined to re-sign Stoudemire in 2010, his knees have acted up and he has not played a minute this season after undergoing a surgical procedure on his left knee on Halloween.
There had been hope Stoudemire could return in time to face the Suns again last night in the Knicks' first game here since Jan. 7, 2011.
But even though he is with the Knicks on their current road swing, that hope was gone by the time the Knicks got to the West Coast.
Coach Mike Woodson would like to get Stoudemire some practice time and there is no time for that until Sunday, which has made the Jan. 1 home game against the Blazers the new target.