Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) has tried to stay positive during the New York Knicks' early-season struggles, but admitted he didn't think the team would labor this much after he took a five-year, $100 million contract to leave the Phoenix Suns.
"I was expecting a few more veteran players, to be honest with you," Stoudemire said. "But we are a young team. We got to understand what it takes to win and continue to work."
The Knicks had hoped to pair Stoudemire or Chris Bosh(notes) with LeBron James(notes) or Dwyane Wade(notes) during the summer's free-agency frenzy. Stoudemire committed early, but the team couldn't convince James to join him.
Stoudemire passed on re-signing with the Suns because the final two years of their offer weren't fully guaranteed. The Suns made the last two seasons of their proposal incentive-based, where Stoudemire would have to meet certain minute and game requirements, because the team was worried about his history of knee problems.
Had the Suns made the same offer as the Knicks, Stoudemire said he would have "absolutely" returned to Phoenix. The Suns had reason to want to protect themselves, but Stoudemire also considered their offer as a sign they didn't have full confidence in him.
"It was a little difficult for me to grasp because of all the hard work I put in to stay healthy on the basketball court, and the effort I gave," Stoudemire said. "I felt I should have had a little bit more leniency towards my contract. As I told Phoenix before and I told the fans, my first option was to return to Phoenix. But obviously they didn't look at it that way.
"Let's say I would have twisted an ankle or something, it has nothing to do with a knee or any other structural problems, my contract would have been voided. Security-wise, that wouldn't be a great situation for me and my family, so I didn't feel comfortable signing it."
Stoudemire has played well with the Knicks, but lacks a star-caliber player next to him. New York enters Friday's game against the Golden State Warriors with a 4-8 record, and it's not hard to see why the Knicks haven't won more when looking at Stoudemire's supporting cast.
The Knicks play an up-tempo style under coach Mike D'Antoni, but their new point guard, Raymond Felton(notes), is more experienced in a halfcourt system. New York also starts rookie shooting guard Landry Fields(notes); talented-yet-inconsistent small forward Danilo Gallinari(notes); and oft-injured center Ronny Turiaf(notes). The bench includes productive forward Wilson Chandler(notes), but also a number of inexperienced or unproven players.
"I still think it's still a good decision [to sign with the Knicks], even though we are really not winning," Stoudemire said. "I think we will break through this barrier soon."
Because Stoudemire has limited help, opponents can devote most of their defense to stopping him. Stoudemire thrived while playing with All-Star point guard Steve Nash(notes), and Felton knows he has some to work to do to build a comparable relationship.
"I just keep doing it the way that I do it," Felton said. "Everybody keeps throwing the Steve Nash thing out there. I don't care about that. Steve Nash is Steve Nash. We're two different people. I do it my way and he does it his way."
Stoudemire knows it's a long shot – at least anytime soon – but he's still holding out hope the Knicks can eventually acquire Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony(notes). Anthony has privately expressed a desire to play in New York, but the Knicks don't have enough assets to make an attractive offer to the Nuggets. Denver officials also haven't given up hope of convincing Anthony to sign the three-year, $64 million contract extension they've offered him.
The Knicks' best chance of landing Anthony is to have him opt out of his current contract and become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
"It would be great to have 'Melo in New York," said Stoudemire, who has been longtime friends with Anthony. "But obviously it's not happening right now. … You never know what the future holds."
Stoudemire will have to continue to do the Knicks' heavy lifting until his supporting cast is upgraded. And will New York eventually land another star?
"I hope so," Stoudemire said. "I'm still not totally sure yet. [Knicks owner James] Dolan is looking to improve the roster and get better and contend for a championship sooner or later. I'm pretty sure we are going to take the right steps to making it happen."
When will Oden return?
Greg Oden's(notes) agent is confident the injured Portland Trail Blazers center will recover in time for the start of next season, assuming a lockout doesn't first wipe out the schedule. The Blazers announced Wednesday that Oden is scheduled to have microfracture surgery on his left knee on Friday in Colorado by renowned specialist Richard Steadman.
Oden's agent, Bill Duffy, said the No. 1 pick of the 2007 draft is expected to recover in nine months.
"He's 22 years old," Duffy said. "He has a long time to prove himself."
Oden has been sidelined since fracturing his left kneecap in a Dec. 5 game against the Houston Rockets. He previously had microfracture surgery on his right knee in September 2007, which caused him to miss his entire rookie season.
Duffy said Oden will stay in Colorado for six days after the surgery before beginning his rehabilitation. Oden will be a restricted free agent after the season, making it possible he's already played his final game for the Blazers.
"We're thinking health first and basketball second," Duffy said. "But we also know that he's optimistic because he had microfracture surgery on the other knee, and that knee is stronger now. He knows that."
Nuggets, Nets conduct business on court
What would seem to be a routine early-season game could carry a lot of significance when the New Jersey Nets visit the Nuggets on Saturday night. The Nets tried to acquire Carmelo Anthony before the season, offering a package built around rookie power forward Derrick Favors(notes) and two first-round picks.
Nets general manager Billy King is traveling on this trip, and it will be interesting to see if he meets with Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri and president Josh Kroenke. The Nuggets have used the Favors offer as a fallback option while they work through other scenarios and proposals.
Sources close to Anthony have previously told Yahoo! Sports that he does not want to go to a gutted team and isn't interested in the struggling Nets. The Nets would like to make a better impression on him during Saturday's game. The Nuggets scouted Favors in the preseason, and will get another close look at him when the teams meet.
The Nets are excited about Favors' potential, but aren't rushing his transition to the NBA. He's averaging 7.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and 20.5 minutes in 11 games.
Warriors move in new direction
New Golden State Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber have spoken boldly about how they plan to change the fortune of the long-suffering franchise. During a luncheon in San Francisco on Monday, they set a lofty goal to eventually lift the Warriors to the ranks of the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics.
They also took jabs at former Warriors owner Chris Cohan and former general manager Chris Mullin, and made references to San Francisco instead of the Warriors' actual home of Oakland before declaring the franchise belongs to the Bay Area.
Considering how miserable the franchise's fans were during Cohan's regime, it wasn't a surprise Lacob and Guber received a standing ovation when introduced during Monday's game. Lacob also told fans that the Warriors' 1975 championship banner needed some company.
"We want to make the moves that are really going to matter and work at the right time, and build on strengths," said Lacob, a former part-owner of the Celtics. "I think you can expect us to be a very aggressive ownership group. We're going to leave our mark, but we are going to try not to make bad moves."
- Steve Nash