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LeBron: Right now, Stoudemire is MVP

A noon start on Christmas may seem early,

A noon start on Christmas may seem early, but last year's Heat-Knicks game at the same time was ESPN's most-watched NBA regular season game. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Mike D'Antoni readily admits the Knicks' goal in free agency was to sign two stars last summer, "and we came up with one."

But that one star, Amar'e Stoudemire, has performed so well that everyone around the league has noticed, including the crown jewel of that free-agent class.

"Right now, he's the MVP of the league," LeBron James said Friday night before his first game in New York as a member of the Miami Heat.

Some considered James' teammate, Chris Bosh, the best big man available last summer, but D'Antoni thinks that perception was simply because Stoudemire never was considered the top star with the Phoenix Suns. There was a lingering question whether he could be the top guy on a team. Not anymore.

"I think he's shown [he can do] that," D'Antoni said. "To what degree? That keeps on going."


Unsung Chandler

Wilson Chandler wasn't in the starting lineup early in the season because D'Antoni wanted him to bring scoring off the bench. But Chandler has played himself into a main role and, according to D'Antoni, has been an underrated factor in the Knicks' resurgence in the past month.

Starting Chandler at power forward moves Stoudemire to center, where he often has an athletic edge over his defenders. Such was the case Friday night with 7-3 Zydrunas Ilgauskas of the Heat trying to guard the smaller and quicker Stoudemire.

"I think the biggest thing is Wilson Chandler is playing so well," D'Antoni said. "If he wasn't playing as well, it wouldn't work.''

Chandler entered Friday averaging 17.3 points and 6.2 rebounds. He had 17 points and 10 rebounds against the Heat.


Phone tag

D'Antoni said he never spoke with James, Bosh or Dwyane Wade after the free agents made their decision to join forces with the Heat, though he made sure to point out a logical reason behind their lack of communication. He said, laughing: "We run in different circles."


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