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Latest endeavor shows Amar'e gets it

 He brought swagger back to the Knicks locker room. Now Amar'e Stoudemire is aiming to make reading cool again, too. 

Stoudemire has been a hot commodity since he signed with the Knicks last summer and he is more than happy to cash in on the opportunities LeBron James bypassed for South Beach. He re-upped his Nike deal this summer -- and is the featured character in Nike's new ad campaign -- and he expanded his endorsement portfolio to include deals with Sheets Energy Strips and ZICO Coconut Water and will soon debut his clothing line -- a collaboration with designed Rachel Roy -- at Macy's. 

And last week, Scholastic Publishing announced a book deal with Stoudemire, which initially may lead to groans: great, another ghostwritten glorification of an athlete designed to prompt parents with a desperate point-of-purchase sale because their disenchanted young reader likes basketball.

The deal is actually a series based on his life called STAT: Standing Tall and Talented, which is an acronymic label he gave himself a few seasons ago. 

Self-indulgent? Well see how it's written, but Stoudemire's intentions seem genuine. He has developed an insatiable appetite for history and self-discovery, much of which he explores through books. In 2009, for example, Stoudemire read "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu.

Stoudemire admitted that he is only now as an adult discovering things about life and the world and regrets that he didn't have more motivation to read as child. This, he said, is the inspiration behind doing a children's book series.

The first book, STAT #1: Home Court, is already in production, but won't be available for release until Aug. 2012. According to Scholastic, the first book involves an 11 year old Stoudemire, who plays sports with his friends, takes his school work seriously, helps out with his dad’s landscaping company and he loves to go skateboarding in the park (Sounds like Amar'e needs a new nickname: "Beaver"). An older group of boys start bullying his friends on the basketball court, so Amar'e is conscripted to save the day using his athletic ability and intelligence. 

The guess here is they all share a Fresca afterward.

But seriously, give Stoudemire and his management team credit for targeting one of the toughest audiences -- middle-grade boys -- that are often the greatest challenge for teachers (my wife, who teaches fifth grade, being one). 

"I decided to write for children because although I am an avid reader now, I wish I had read more as a child," he said in a statement when the partnership was announced. "I hope that together with Scholastic, we can creatively inspire a new generation to read.”

* * *

* -- Phil Jackson, when he spoke to reporters at the Hall of Fame ceremonies in Springfield, Mass., clearly didn't shoot down the notion of coming out of retirement to coach again. The belief, however, is he may only consider one job and that would be the one job that would bring his career full circle: taking the seat of his mentor, Red Holzman, with the Knicks. With Mike D'Antoni heading into the final year of his contract, expect Jackson to loom over D'Antoni's shoulder throughout the year, especially if the team struggles. And if the lockout somehow happens to eliminate the entire season -- personally, I don't believe it will -- the opportunity may certainly there for Jackson if he wants it.

* -- Chris Mullin, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame, could come up with only one name when asked about pure shooters in today's NBA: Ray Allen. Kids, forget trying to dribble off your knee or dunking a volley ball and work on that form. Allen, unfortunately, appears to be the last of a dying breed of gym rats who are obsessed by consistency and accuracy. Reggie Miller, who is cut from the same cloth, also named Allen.

* -- It was great to see legendary Philadelphia University coach Herb Magee inducted into the Hall. Magee had some powerhouse teams at the NCAA Division II level, and I had the experience of playing against a few of them at C.W. Post in the early 1990s. Post and Philadelphia Textile (before it adopted the name Philadelphia University) were fierce rivals and both teams played in bandbox gyms with rowdy crowds. Magee did send one of his best players to the NBA, but not as a player. Ed Malloy, a 1993 grad, is currently an NBA referee. 

* -- Chauncey Billups was in Springfield last week to receive the Mannie Jackson Human Spirit Award from the Basketball Hall of Fame, for his charitable efforts through basketball. It might have been the most underpublicized award ever given to an active member of the Knicks, which is an obvious sign of the lockout. The NBA has forbidden teams to make any reference to current locked out players, so the Knicks could not put out a press release about the award. Even Billups' agent, Andy Miller, admitted he only heard about the award two days before it was presented to Billups.

We told you last week that Billups had been cleared to begin basketball workouts. The bruised left knee had caused him enough pain to keep him off the court since April. Perhaps a prolonged lockout would do some good for the hobbled Big 2.5, with Stoudemire (sore back muscle), Carmelo Anthony (elbow bursitis) and Billups (knee) all needed some extended rest this offseason. But as each start to heal, the desire to get back to basketball increases.

“Whenever we can make a deal or whatever might happen, I’ll be ready to go," Billups told the Boston Globe.

He then added that, with 35 approaching next month, he has a greater sense of urgency.

“I have played most of my career out,’’ Billups said. “I don’t have that many more years to play. I’m just looking forward to getting back out there."

Stoudemire, who leaves for his Nike Tour through China on Tuesday, is attempting to organize a minicamp-type workout for his teammates in early September at the IMG facility in Bradenton, Fla. But will he get a commitment from Billups and Anthony, especially if there remains no progress in CBA talks? Both players have to know the controversy that would brew from blowing off the workouts.

* -- Speaking of Carmelo (by the way, he has his own juvenile-level book, "It's just the Beginning," which was published by Positively for Kids in 2004), after tours of China and Puerto Rico, he will soon be back in New York this month. He will make an appearance at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing for the annual Arthur Ashe Kids' Day, which kicks off the Open for a 16th year. The great family-friendly event will be hosted by Melo's wife, Lala, and actor Quddus, on Aug. 27. U.S. Open defending champions Rafael Nadal and Kim Clijsters will be there, along with No. 1 ranked men's player, Novak Djokovic, and the ubiquitous Andy Roddick.

* -- According to the Miami Herald, Eddy Curry is back down to 300 pounds and once again working with trainer Tim Grover in Chicago with an ambition to earn a training camp invite with the Miami Heat once the lockout ends. What we've learned about Eddy is he has no problem getting under 300. It's staying under 300 that is the issue. Staying healthy after the second day of camp is another challenge. 

* -- With the Borders bookstore located on the 33rd Street side of 2 Penn Plaza going out of business, wouldn't it be cool if the Knicks bought the location and turned it into a practice court? They could use it mainly for home game shoot-arounds and for opposing teams to use for practice when they are in town. And with large windows that display the court for all to see along Seventh Avenue and 33rd Street, it would create another New York landmark spectacle, right by the famous marquee. Several NBA teams have similar street-view set ups at their arenas, such as the Indiana Pacers and the Charlotte Bobcats.

There is little-to-zero likelihood that the Knicks would move out of the Greenburg-based MSG Training Center, which was opened just 10 years ago, for a practice gym at the Garden. But adding an alternative court could alleviate the morning shoot-around issue and become a cool attraction for the Garden, which is well into the first stage of the three-year transformation. 



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