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Grateful for that new arena smell

Orlando center Dwight Howard shoots among three Dallas

Orlando center Dwight Howard shoots among three Dallas defenders during the Dallas Mavericks at Orlando Magic game at the Amway Center in Orlando. (Dec. 21, 2010) Credit: AP

 ORLANDO -- First impressions of the new Amway Center are positive. Still has that new arena smell, which is welcoming to me since in the old building, you had to walk through the bathroom to get to the visitors locker room area. Seriously.

And when Nate Robinson was a Knick he always seemed to have a well-timed pregame B.M. just before the locker room was opened to the media.

It's a cavernous building, which means it's expensive. And that means they need to sell lots of seats in those prime real estate areas where they used to accommodate the print media. Tim Povtak of AOL FanHouse pointed toward the new location for most writers. "See where it says Section 109?" he said.

"Oh, well, that's not THAT bad," I replied.

"No, it's ABOVE that," he then said.

When I covered hockey, I used to keep a set of Bushnells in my backpack. Considering some of the locations they're starting to dump us in NBA arenas -- Cleveland and Denver are by far the worst, at least until I experience tomorrow night's game -- I may need to start taking the binoculars with me again.

Well at least they still treat us with respect at the Garden. Until, of course, that three-quarters of a billion-dollar "transformation" is completed.

Do fans really care where the print media sits in these buildings? Probably not, because you think it's enough of a privilege to be even in the arena without paying for a ticket. Maybe so, but you're relying on us to report about the game and that should mean giving you an exclusive perspective you can't otherwise get watching at home on television or sitting in the more affordable -- notice I didn't say "cheap" this time -- seats in the upper decks.

Well, sitting far away from the court means we're now basically relying on television, as well, for replays and close-ups, to assist in our coverage. And that, I'm sure, most of you could do from the comfort of your living room couch.

But we still get access to the locker room, so that certainly gives us far more access than the average fan. And thankfully, that access here in Orlando no longer includes a stroll through the loo.

* * *

* -- As we posted here on Tuesday, the NBA has included Stoudemire in their "Time Machine" themed commercials.  It shows a 17-year-old Amar'e shooting in an Orlando-based gym while two Knicks fans from the future offer words of encouragement as they giddily consider what is to come in 10 years.

Stoudemire said he hasn't seen the commercial, but laughed when I asked him about the most notable detail in the spot: Cornrows? Really?

"Yeah," he said as the laugh turned into a bellow. "I was looking like Ronny Turiaf out there."

[Bloghost note: Not nearly as frizzy. These rows were neat, like the way Eddy Curry used to wear them when he was once a phenom, too. Nowadays he is looking very, very heavy again, though it should be said that Curry ran hard through a post-practice scrimmage today. If anything, he made sure to at least prove two things: 1. he can run full-court without getting injured. 2. he's not injured.]

In the video, the young Stoudemire was clanking jumpers with a very raw shooting form that started much lower than it does now. Let's mention here that Amar'e started playing organized basketball at the age of 14.

"I had pretty good rotation," he said, "I just didn't have any lift."

The release, someone suggested, looked similar to Shawn Marion. Though not nearly as ugly.

"Probably better than Shawn Marion, I think," Stoudemire said of that bizarre flicking motion his former teammate has used that must have Kenny Sailors rolling over in his grave. And Sailors isn't even dead.

* - Stoudemire vs. Dwight Howard will be an interesting matchup mainly from the standpoint of wondering which big man gets into foul trouble first? This game starts a stretch of games in which the Knicks face teams with legit big man size, from Howard to the much-improved Roy Hibbert (Pacers, Jan. 2) to the Big Fundamental himself, Tim Duncan (Spurs, Jan. 4), to Pau Gasol (Lakers, Jan. 9).

After 67-year-old Zydrunas Ilgauskas dominated the Knicks in that killer first quarter on Tuesday, it was quite evident the size issue needed to be addressed. It was, but mainly by making adjustments with strategy. Mike D'Antoni may seem stubborn to most fans who are quick to shred the gameplan after one bad quarter, but he's absolutely correct here when he says the small lineup -- with the 6-10 Stoudemire at center and 6-8 Wilson Chandler at power forward -- is the best strategy for the team right now even with size on the bench, such as 6-10 Anthony Randolph and 7-1 Timofey Mozgov.

And that's what makes sense about playing 6-8 Shawne Williams at the four when Chandler goes to the bench, because the lineup stays consistent. With Williams you have another player who can stretch the floor with his ability to shoot the corner three and he doesn't hurt you because he is a good defender.

But make no mistake, if the Knicks can somehow find a way to acquire Marcus Camby -- if or when the Trail Blazers decide to move the veteran shot-blocker -- Camby would step right into the center spot and slide Stoudemire back to where he is most comfortable, at power forward.

* - Randolph had a few standout moments in the post-practice scrimmage, mainly on drives to the basket in transition, especially when Curry didn't get down the floor fast enough to keep pace. But Randolph also had a few mental mistakes and bad decisions that had a couple of teammates frustrated with him. Again, it goes back to two major issues: strength around the rim (he is easily overpowered) and decision-making (he is prone to taking bad shots). For those who demand he should play, you need to first consider who he would replace. Williams has the four spot for the reasons we explained above and Turiaf is an easy choice as backup center.

* - Kelenna Azubuike also participated in the full-court run and though he clearly pushed himself to keep pace and showed no fear on drives to the basket, he still is lacking the necessary lift and quickness he'll need to be effective in a live NBA game.

* - The Magic, with Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu have the makings of a volatile offense, especially with Howard inside running pick-and-roll. Actually, Stan Van Gundy plays pretty much the same way D'Antoni draws it up for the Knicks. "Yeah, they use one guy in and four out, shoot threes and run," D'Antoni said. "They just do it a little bit better than we've done it in the past [in New York]. They got to the Finals with it. That's how they play. I like the way they do it."

 * - For those of you Fixers who are looking for a good still photo of the Amar'e dunk on LeBron, one of your very own posted one here on our Knicks Fix Facebook page. Amar'e said he expects to sign plenty of them in the near future.

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