Of all the accomplishments Amar'e Stoudemire achieved during his first regular season in New York, the one that made him break out a wide smile after Wednesday's season finale was the realization that he made it through the final 26 games without picking up his 16th technical foul, which would have resulted in an automatic suspension.
Stoudemire was frustrated all season with the rash of T's -- especially early in the season when the NBA attempted to enforce a "respect for the game" edict that strictly punished visual outbursts at referees and just about any type of emotional reactions -- and had been tied with Dwight Howard for most of the season at the top of the league's list of offenders. His last technical foul came on Feb. 23 against the Milwaukee Bucks, coincidentally, that was Carmelo Anthony's debut game.
Stoudemire, who thrives on emotion and aggressive trash talking ("Get that stuff outta here" is a favorite phrase), had to squelch that part of his game. Is there any relation between that and how his game seemed to lose its mojo down the stretch? Not likely. He was showing signs of fatigue long before the 15th tech.
Stoudemire, uh, technically picked up his 16th tech on March 10 in Dallas, when he and Brendan Haywood were T-d up, but the techs were rescinded by the league after a review showed referee Bob Delaney overreacted to a minor altercation. Stoudemire had the benefit of three rescinded technicals this season.
But all told, he paid a total of $45,000 in fines for the 15 technicals.
Now that the playoffs begin, Stoudemire's tech count resets to zero. For the playoffs, a player is punished with an automatic one game suspension when he picks up his seventh technical foul.
* * *
* - Individual tickets for Games 3 and 4 at the Garden go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. The Knicks are limiting each purchase to four tickets because there are a limited amount available. Game 3 is Good Friday, April 22 at 7 p.m. and Game 4 is Easter Sunday (April 24) at 3:30 p.m.
* - Putting the final touches on the regular season, Carmelo Anthony led the team with 26.3 points per game in 27 games. He is the fifth different player in as many years to lead the team in scoring, which is an obvious sign of transition. The last time the Knicks had a player lead the team in scoring in consecutive seasons was 2003-04 to 2005-06, when Stephon Marbury led the way.
Amar'e Stoudemire is the true scoring leader, however, with 1,971 points in 78 games. Stoudemire also finished as the team's top shooter (50.2 percent, minimum of 200 made). Stoudemire also led the team in minutes (2,870) and rebounding (8.2 per game). The Knicks finished with 475 blocks, which was the most since 1989-90 (franchise-best 492) and ranked them fourth in the NBA at 5.79 per game. They were also eighth in the league in steals (7.62). But overall the team gave up 105.73 points per game, which was the third most in the league. Yes, the possessions-per-game should factor in so let's put it another way: the Knicks had the ninth-worst defensive efficiency at 106.9 per game. Their effective field goal percentage, a big statistic of the coaching staff, was seventh-worst at 51.9 percent.
On the other hand, the Knicks were one of the league's most efficient offenses, ranked fifth at 108.3, with the eighth-best effective field goal percentage (51.3).
Carmelo finished third in the NBA in scoring and Stoudemire (25.3) was sixth. I'll leave it up to the Elias Sports Bureau to find the last time two Knicks players ranked in the top 10 in league scoring in the same season. I'm guessing it's been a long, long time.
* - Ronny Turiaf told me last night that he is thinking about shaving his beard for the playoffs. Would that be like a reverse playoff beard? When I asked him the last time his cheeks were hairless, he replied, "In college, in 2005."
I don't think he goes through with it.