If you are a New York Knicks fan you are probably going to want to get yourself down to the newsstand or over the magazine rack at the local grocery store and get yourself a copy of the Feb. 14 issue of Sports Illustrated. All-Star forward Amare Stoudemire is not on the cover, but he is featured under a piece gaudily entitled "The Savor Cometh -- Amar'e Stoudemire wanted a team he could call his own, so he went the one place his free-agent brethren avoided: New York. Now he's the toast of the town."
Amare Stoudemire the savior of basketball in the city? Not just the savior of the Knicks, helping a moribund franchise become relevant again, but in the entire city? I hadn't thought of Stoudemire that way.
You can, of course, also read the Stoudemire piece online at SportsIllustrated.com. Here is part of it:
Stoudemire is more than the first-half MVP. He is the man saving New York basketball, once and for all, from the era of Isiah Thomas and Larry Brown, of Stephon Marbury and Eddy Curry, of heedless spending followed by wholesale slashing.
"Nobody wanted this," the 28-year-old Stoudemire says. "Everybody was afraid." He is referring to fellow members of the free-agent class of 2010 -- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh et al. -- who liked the benefits of New York without the burdens: a seven-year playoff drought, a roster highlighted by 22-year-old Italian forward Danilo Gallinari, a home court described as "a morgue" by Knicks Hall of Famer Walt Frazier. "We talked to a lot of great players, and you couldn't tell what they were thinking," says club president Donnie Walsh. "Amar'e was the only one who told us he wanted to be here."
I have to admit that back when Stoudemire signed I thought he was just in New York for the $100 million the Knicks paid him and the fast-lane lifestyle the city offered.
I certainly was wrong about that. I don't feel too bad, though, because the SI piece makes clear that even the Knicks did not think Stoudemire would be this good.
Team president Donnie Walsh had spent two years in NBA purgatory, clearing cap space with the understanding that he would have no chance to compete. "It gets tough to go to work every day," says Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni. "We slogged through it." D'Antoni's reward, instead of James, was a player who traded jabs with him in Phoenix, had undergone microfracture surgery on his left knee five years ago and was enough of an injury risk that the Knicks were denied insurance on his five-year, $100 million contract. "If you asked me in Phoenix whether he could be the top dog in New York, I'd have told you no," says Dan D'Antoni, Mike's brother and a Knicks assistant. "He wasn't sure of himself, and when you aren't sure of yourself, you do two things: talk about how good you are and blame somebody else when things go wrong."
Fortunately for the Knicks, and basketball fans in New York, the mega-deal the Knicks gave Stoudemire is proving to be money well spent.
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