STAT defends D'Antoni, applauds Woodson


Earlier this week, Amar'e Stoudemire said, "I've never been taught defense in my whole career," but on Friday, he clarified those comments weren't meant to diss his former coach Mike D'Antoni.

Listen to the Stoudemire interview:

Play Download"That was no shot at coach D'Antoni," he told Michael Kay and Don La Greca on ESPN New York 98.7 FM. "It was a compliment to coach Woodson. Just defensively the different strategies he brings forth on the defensive end is something that's intriguing to me because it's new to my ears."

Appearing on ESPN New York 98.7 FM's "Stephen A. Smith & Ryan Ruocco" on Friday a few hours earlier, Woodson returned a compliment to Stoudemire -- and it involved his defense against the Spurs. On one play, the power forward made an aggressive steal on Manu Ginobili's drive attempt during the game, ripping the ball away from him.

"I thought last night he made a major step in the right direction," the coach said. "His minutes went up a little bit and he did some things from a defensive standpoint that we liked and offensively, he was pretty good. ... His timing is a little off, but I think as he continues and we continue to push him, it will get better each and every day that he steps out on that floor."

Listen to the Woodson interview:

Play DownloadStoudemire also said his timing is "not quite there yet," but he hopes to be back to himself in the next week or two. Looking ahead, he said he has no problem continuing to come off the bench -- because he has a much bigger goal in mind.

"The most important factor at this point in my career is maturity kicks in, and the ultimate goal is to win a championship," he said. "Whatever it takes to accomplish that goal, I'm totally open to it. That's the goal."

Reflecting on the Knicks' success this season, Stoudemire said it wasn't tough at all watching his teammates excel without him on the court.

"It was great to watch the guys play extremely well and win without me because it gave me more time to recover," he said, "and it gave me more confidence knowing that we had a solid team and had a great chance to do something special in New York. So it was great to watch."

Regarding the Knicks' second player to return from a knee surgery, Iman Shumpert, Woodson said "The Rook" is making progress. That means he could make his comeback, as planned, likely at the end of this month or early February.

"He's starting a little contact; not 5-on-5 contact," Woodson said. "Individual contact he started a few days ago, and that's a major plus. We're not really here to rush this kid back. He's on schedule. ... A lot of his work now is still conditioning, individual banging and then we'll build from there and get him into a 5-on-5 setting where we can practice and get him where he's banging around."

LOCKED IN: Woodson said this about the team: "We're all on the same page, and that's important. I think when you're talking about trying to build a championship team, everybody's got to be on the same page and egos have got to be left at the door. I feel good about the makeup of our ball club."

BROTHERHOOD: Stoudemire's late older brother, Hazell, would have celebrated his 36th birthday today. He died in a car crash last February. STAT said on radio, "He was my role model growing up."

On Saturday in Orlando, near Stoudemire's hometown of Lake Wales, he's inviting 30 students to the Knicks' game against the Magic, and then afterward, he's going to talk to them about school, staying focused and setting goals.

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