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Fired up Amar'e Stoudemire prepared to start season coming off bench

Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire reacts after scoring against

Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire reacts after scoring against the Milwaukee Bucks during the second half of a preseason game at Madison Square Garden on Monday, Oct. 20, 2014. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Amar'e Stoudemire's words have been brimming with so much optimism this preseason, it's as if he's mentally turned back the clock to his glory years.

One day he says he feels as if he's 19 years old again. Another day he says he's back to being his old dominant self. He also has said he hasn't been this excited about beginning a season in years.

Yet how's this for a reality check? For all his uplifting talk, indications are that Stoudemire will be on the bench when the Knicks' season begins Wednesday night.

Stoudemire said Monday after practice that he hasn't been told that he'll begin the season on the bench, but he put on his best face about the probability of being a reserve player for the third straight season.

"I take the game very seriously whether I'm starting or coming off the bench," he said. "Whatever is best for the team, if we're winning, then so be it. If we're not, then we'll figure something out."

Stoudemire has started only one preseason game, and that was at center because first-year coach Derek Fisher wanted to experiment with a different lineup.

Fisher said he hasn't pushed Stoudemire this preseason because he was "getting a feel for physically what was smart to do," given Stoudemire's injury history.

But even as Stoudemire made it through each day without any notable setbacks, Fisher chose to look elsewhere after Andrea Bargnani hurt his hamstring.

Jason Smith and Quincy Acy were given extended looks at power forward, and one of them seems likely to be in the starting lineup Wednesday night. Samuel Dalembert appears to be the starter at center.

Fisher said he's been trying to find a balance of offensive-minded and defensive-minded players in his rotations, and Stoudemire looks as if he's slated to be the offensive big man off the bench. He believes he can make a significant impact in that role.

"Starting or not, I think other teams are going to respect I'm a threat out there on the basketball court," Stoudemire said. "So I want to keep that respect going."

Fisher expects the starting lineup "to evolve over time," noting that injuries meant he didn't have a chance to start the same five guys for several preseason games to get a good look at them together.

Stoudemire played his best basketball last season when he was in the starting lineup, averaging 16.1 points and 6.2 rebounds in his final 20 games.

He stressed that he isn't worried about his role, saying his teammates know how important he is. "They know I'm one of the main guys on the team," he said. "That's not a secret. I'm sure other teams know that as well."

Notes & quotes: The Knicks traded Travis Outlaw to Philadelphia for Arnett Moultrie, whom they waived, clearing a roster spot for Travis Wear. Philadelphia also got a 2019 second-round pick from the Knicks and the option to swap second-rounders in 2018. The Knicks could have waived Outlaw outright and eatenhis $3-million salary. Because Moultrie's contract is for roughly $1.1 million, the Knicks saved about $1.9 million plus luxury-tax penalties. Wear, an undrafted 6-10 rookie forward out of UCLA, impressed the Knicks with his athleticism and shot-making. He said after practice Monday that he's "ecstatic" that he made the team.

With Al Iannazzone

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