Stoudemire: Knicks must make playoffs

Amare Stoudemire was the center of attention on Friday afternoon. AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Amare Stoudemire fittingly sat at the middle table at the New York Knicks' media day. The other players had their own tables, too, but Stoudemire's was the only one that remained filled with reporters for the entire hour of media availability on Friday.

With personality as big as his 6-foot-10 frame, Stoudemire has already cleared one hurdle: He is the team's star and lead spokesman. That is why when he speaks, his words carry importance.

With the Knicks' first 2010 practice set for Saturday, Stoudemire said he thinks this season it is the playoffs or failure.

"Anything less than [the playoffs] would not be a success," said Stoudemire, 27, who in July signed a five-year deal worth nearly $100 million.

Not making the playoffs could cost Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni and president Donnie Walsh their jobs. The Knicks will be transitioning from the disappointment of the Summer of LeBron into 2011, which could end up being the Summer of Isiah, as in Thomas making a comeback to the Garden.

Right now, the latest star that appears to be slipping through the Knicks' fingers is the Denver Nuggets' Carmelo Anthony. Without a first-round picks to deal, Walsh admitted he is being shut out of the Anthony trade talks.

Stoudemire and Anthony are friends. The two hung out for a week and went to the Jay-Z-Eminem concert at Yankee Stadium recently.

As he held court Friday, Stoudemire tried to keep the focus on this season and what the Knicks have, not what they don't have. "I'm not sure what his decision is going to be," Stoudemire said of Anthony, who might need to sign an extension to facilitate a deal.

James made his famous decision to take his talents to South Beach. While he never was a Knick, James left behind two years of planning, and relinquished the center table to Stoudemire, who is ready to embrace the opportunity.

"LeBron has nothing to do with me," Stoudemire said. "His decision was his decision, and I think his decision may have been made years prior to the summer. It has nothing to do with me, my dedication is to the city of New York. I came here when the Knicks were down and out. I think the Knicks fans feel the exact same way about me. I think they have my back."

Knicks fans will see a completely different roster, though the team is still waiting to clear Eddy Curry's salary. Curry, who is in the final season of his contract, appeared to be in OK shape on Friday, but he didn't sound much different. Curry didn't think it was a big deal that he was the only Knicks player not to arrive early for training camp.

"I didn't know it was mandatory," Curry said.

It wasn't, but in act of solidarity most of the team showed up early to try to mesh the reworked roster.

Curry said he has not had much, if any, discussion about his role with D'Antoni. There is a strong chance that Russian center Timofey Mozgov could be the starter.

The man who will be leading the charge will be Raymond Felton. The point guard, who averaged 12 points and nearly six assists per game for the Charlotte Bobcats last year, will try and be D'Antoni's new Steve Nash.

"I would love to be able to run the offense the way that Steve Nash has," Felton said of the Phoenix Suns point guard, who won two MVP awards while playing for D'Antoni and with Stoudemire.

"Steve Nash is one of the greatest point guards to play the game and one of the greatest point guards to play today. But at the same time, I'm Raymond Felton. He is Steve Nash. I'm going to play the way I play. He is going to play the way he plays. At the same time, to be able to accomplish the things he did with his team, that is the same type of thing I want to do with this team."

If he and Stoudemire are to do that, guys like Danilo Gallinari need to reach their potential. Gallinari, who just turned 22, has impressed Felton in their workouts with his ability to fill it up from outside.

Gallinari sported an A.J. Burnett-like shiner on his right eye, thanks to a Patrick Ewing Jr. elbow during the pre-training camp scrimmages.

On Friday, Gallinari sat at the round table next to Stoudemire. Reporters showed up one at a time, asking the Italian about the Knicks' trip to Italy and France next week.

Stoudemire will be front and center internationally. He has already shown he can handle the New York spotlight, embracing the city. But he knows his success will be measured on the court.

With James and Anthony nowhere in sight, Stoudemire has the perfect number on his uniform to describe his place on the new Knicks. He is No. 1, the most important Knicks player.

He says it is playoffs or failure. If it is failure, media day in 2011 couldl be about another Knicks' transition game.

Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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