NBA AM: Knicks’ Stoudemire Thinking Title
While a lot of NBA superstars have been making waves hitting the streetball circuit this summer during the ongoing lockout, New York Knicks All-Star forward Amar’e Stoudemire has been notably absent from the headlines.
According to multiple reports the absence is due to Stoudemire still being limited from the back injury suffered before game two of team’s first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics back in April.
Lingering back injuries have derailed many careers and the nine year veteran’s health has given Knicks fans a cause for concern heading into the upcoming season.
The fear is compounded factoring in the Phoenix Suns’ reluctance to guarantee more than four years when Stoudemire hit free agency last summer due to durability issues.
However Stoudemire doesn’t believe the injury will force him to miss any on court action, even training camp, if the labor dispute ends and the 2012 campaign starts as scheduled.
“No question,” Stoudemire responded to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News on whether he’d be ready for the start of training camp. “I feel great. I feel good. I’ve been resting and rehabbing all summer. That’s my main priority.”
While most are focusing on the health issues, Stoudemire is thinking long term with his eyes set on bringing the Larry O’Brien championship trophy back to the Big Apple.
The six-time All-Star feels that in order to hoist the trophy his high powered offensive minded team must be willing to give equal effort on the defensive side of the ball.
“For us to win a championship, defense has to be a primary force,” Stoudemire said. “It has to be something that we focus in on. Everyone has to buy into it and everyone has to become much better [defensively].”
Improving defensively as a team is seemingly the theme of the offseason.
Last week embattled head coach Mike D’Antoni, known for his prowess producing high powered offensive attacks, hired former Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Woodson as his top assistant.
It is widely believed Woodson’s primary role is to improve overall team defense and implementing strategies to limit opposing offenses.
Stoudemire applauded the move by the team to bolster its coaching staff and feels the hire brings the club one step closer to its goal of winning a title.
“I think it’s great,” Stoudemire said. “It’s definitely what we talked about, improving defensively. With the help of Mike (Woodson) it’s going to be really positive for us. But it’s up to us as players to take that commitment and implement it.”
The Knicks allowed a whopping 105.7 points per game during the 2011 season, which was the second worst in the league, and more than any other team who made a playoff appearance.
Memphis’ Conley Showing Leadership: You’d have to search long and wide to find anyone who predicted the Memphis Grizzlies would be one game away from reaching the Western Conference Finals before the start of last season.
Yet that’s exactly where the Grizzlies found themselves after surprisingly dispatching the heavily favorite San Antonio Spurs in the first-round and pushing the Oklahoma City Thunder to seven games in the conference semifinals.
Lockout or no lockout, starting point guard Mike Conley didn’t want to lose any momentum or team chemistry built during last season’s success and organized a mini-camp for the team this week in Memphis.
“I’ve been prepared all summer to do this,” Conley told Ronald Tillery of the Commercial Appeal. “It’s my job as the point guard. I want to be one of the leaders on the team. And guys did a great job of keeping their word and coming in on time ready to work.”
Players who arrived to the camp on Tuesday include Rudy Gay, Tony Allen, Zach Randolph and O.J. Mayo. Second round draft pick Josh Selby was expected to be in town yesterday.
According to Conley, the team hasn’t lost a step in regards to their continuity.
“Guys really see it once we get back together,” Conley said. “When we saw each other, everybody was excited and everybody had a lot of energy. We really enjoy each other’s company.”
With the ongoing lockout expected to cut into normal preseason activity, Conley doesn’t view this week’s mini-camp as a one-time deal. The emerging guard wants to get back in the gym with his teammates to stay sharp for whenever the league reopens its doors.
“We’re going to do it again going forward,” Conley added. “We’re going to take weeks during the lockout to get together. It might be here. It might be in Las Vegas. Wherever we can get guys to meet and we can get a gym.”
The Grizzlies finished the season with a 46-36 mark and have numerous roster issues to address once the offseason truly begins. Marc Gasol will enter the market as a restricted free agent giving the team the right to match any offer, but after extending Gay and Randolph the last two years it remains to be seen how heavily the low market team is willing to load their salaries.
Suns’ Gani Lawal Signs Overseas: Gani Lawal, the No. 46 overall pick in the 2010 draft, has reportedly agreed to a deal with Polish club Zastal Zielona Gora.
The power forward played in one game with the Suns last season, logging two minutes.
The deal will reportedly contain an opt-out clause allowing for Lawal to rejoin the Suns if the lockout doesn’t lead to the cancellation of the entire season.
Lawal’s deal with Phoenix isn’t fully guaranteed for the 2012 campaign.
Other NBA News & Notes
- Miami HEAT forward LeBron James reached out to the team’s first-round pick Norris Cole last week and the two got acclimated on the court with each other running drills in Akron, OH.
He welcomed me to the family, the Miami Heat family,” Cole told Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel. “He found out I was in the area. He asked if I wanted to come work out. He said I could come work out any time he’s in the area, and I said, ‘OK,’ and I took advantage of it.”
Prior to the drills with James, Cole had not met any other member of the HEAT since being drafted.
- San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Manu Ginobili is pulling for his teammate point guard Tony Parker to finally get an opportunity to play in the Olympics. Parker is currently playing in Eurobasket for France and Ginobili has been keeping a watchful eye on his progress.
“I haven’t been able to watch the games, but I follow the stats, and I know (France) is undefeated,” Ginobili told Mike Monroe of Express-News. “I know they beat Serbia in the last second. Tony is rolling. I’d really love for Tony to get to play the Olympic Games. He’s a good friend, and any athlete of a high level should learn what it is to be in the Olympics. I told T.P. this a million times, and I think he’s really focused and wants to be there.”
NBA Chats: There are two chats on the schedule today. Joel Brigham is set to run the point at 1:30PM EST. Joel covers the Chicago Bulls and Eastern Conference. Be sure to get your questions in early. Next, HOOPSWORLD’s publisher Steve Kyler will host his chat at 3:30PM EST. Steve has the latest news regarding the lockout, trade rumors and offseason buzz. Submit your question here. You can always find the upcoming chats here.