Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
GREENBURGH, N.Y. — With the Knicks on the brink of playing in the postseason for the first time since 2004, Amar’e Stoudemire says the team has lofty goals.
“The main goal is to get to the [NBA] Finals,” Stoudemire said Friday after practice at the Knicks’ Westchester campus. “That’s the main goal.”
To get there, the Knicks will have to upset a Boston Celtics team that has reached the NBA Finals twice in the last three years, winning the title in 2008.
“We gotta win,” Stoudemire said, looking ahead to Game 1 Sunday night in Boston. “We gotta go out there in Boston and get a win. Gain homecourt advantage and once we do that, then we gotta take care of home.”
A year ago, Stoudemire was part of a Phoenix Suns team that made the Western Conference Finals as the No. 3 seed before losing to the eventual NBA champion Lakers in six games.
He incorrectly recalled that Phoenix was “the seventh or eighth seed.”
If the No. 6-seeded Knicks knock off the No. 3 Celtics, it will be considered a significant upset.
Stoudemire says he’s 100 percent recovered from the left ankle sprain that caused him to miss three games before he returned in Wednesday’s loss at Boston.
“Yeah, ankle’s 100 percent, no worries,” he said.
Stoudemire scored 30+ points in nine straight games from Nov. 28-Dec. 15 and posted at least 20 in 26 consecutive games from Nov. 24 to Jan. 19.
Yet his production has declined recently.
He scored 20 points or fewer in six of the Knicks’ last nine games, hitting a season-low 13 in a loss to the Magic on March 23.
“That month was tough, that March was tough,” he said. “And there was a lot of emotions going throughout that month with the trade and things like that, so we were still trying to figure some things out on both ends of the court.”
Now, he says he “feels great.”
“Whenever the postseason comes around, I tend to turn my game up a notch, so it brings the extra motivation and the extra focus out of me, so I can’t wait,” he said.
Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said he will play Stoudemire (36.8 minutes), Carmelo Anthony (36.2) and Chauncey Billups (31.6) more minutes during the postseason
“You wouldn’t want them to [play 40 minutes], but I think if they can, they will,” D’Antoni said.
There will be no back-to-backs in this series, and there are two whole days off between Game 2 in Boston Tuesday and Game 3 in New York Friday. As a result, Stoudemire, Anthony and Billups could end up squeezing someone out of the team’s rotation.
“They’ll play as much as I think they need to play to win,” D’Antoni said. “I think we have 11 guys right now that could play, but that doesn’t mean they will play.”
When Stoudemire joined the Knicks as a free agent last summer, he boldly proclaimed, “The Knicks are back.”
He said he had no preconceived notions then about how far the Knicks could go.
Now that they’re back in the playoffs for the first time in seven years, Stoudemire is anxious to get it going.
“Now,” he said, “the real season starts.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.