Stoudemire Cherishes Chance to Shine in New York Spotlight

Amar'e Stoudemire relishes the opportunity to lead the New York Knicks.
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Amar’e Stoudemire might not have gotten noticed much during a recent trip to his friend’s ranch in Montana while wearing a cowboy hat, boots and some “Brett Favre” Wrangler jeans. And there are times he walks around Westchester– the location of MSG Training Center – without being recognized.

New York City? Well, that’s a different story. During the summer, Stoudemire, the Knicks’ new 6-foot-11 power forward, couldn’t even walk through midtown without seeing himself on billboards and buildings.

“I’m just cherishing the moment,” he said. “This has been a great opportunity for me and I’m just enjoying it.”

Stoudemire has become the face of the Knicks since the day he agreed on a multiyear deal early in free agency. He is the franchise’s first superstar big man since Patrick Ewing, bringing with him a resume that features an NBA Rookie of the Year award, five All-Star appearances and a first team All-NBA selection.

While still spending the past month and a half in the gym working out with his new teammates, Stoudemire made headlines away from basketball this summer by visiting Israel, rubbing elbows with celebrities during Fashion Week, and making TV appearances. He even tossed out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium Thursday after wrapping up the filming of an ESPN commercial earlier in the day.

But don’t get it wrong. Stoudemire has his priorities straight.

“The city is great. It’s the best city in the world and I’m enjoying the experience,” said Stoudemire, who spent the first eight years of his career in Phoenix. “But I think the most important factor is winning.”

Stoudemire might be the main man in New York heading into the season, but he’s quick to point out the old adage that there’s no ‘I’ in team. Instead of looking to carry the Knicks on his own, he’s hoping that everyone will build the right chemistry to accomplish the single goal of bringing the team back to the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

“In order for us to win we have to play together and we have to become a unit,” he said.

It all officially starts with training camp, which began with media day on Friday. While the purpose of the voluntary offseason workouts was for everyone to get back in great shape, training camp will be used as more of a learning period. With 10 new players on the roster, Stoudemire says the team will focus on floor spacing, getting open shots and learning head coach Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced offensive system.

Stoudemire played for D’Antoni in Phoenix and shined in the pick-and-roll with two-time MVP point guard Steve Nash. Stoudemire is hoping to have similar success in the same offense with Raymond Felton, a very talented point guard who also signed with the Knicks during free agency. The two have a relationship that dates back to their high school days and they’re already expecting a good relationship on the court in New York.

“(Stoudemire) has great hands so you can pass the ball to him in any kind of way and he’s going to catch it,” Felton said. “And I know where he likes to get the ball at just by playing pickup with him the past few weeks. That’s something I’ve already picked up on.”

The Knicks made a lot of roster moves over the past two seasons in order to get a player of Stoudemire’s status to New York this year. But while the expectations clearly are high for him, he is not stressing out. All he can control is playing his game with the hope his teammates will follow in his success.

“I feel that personally it’s really about improving as a player,” he said. “I feel like if I improve, the team improves. There’s really no pressure. Whether I was here or anywhere else, I’d have the same exact feeling. I think the most important thing is to establish leadership as a team, understanding that we all, even the last guy in the rotation, have to have a positive influence for us.”