Commentary

At last! Knicks have winning record

Even "humorless" D'Antoni smiling after Stoudemire & Co. take season opener

Updated: October 28, 2010, 9:15 AM ET
By Chris Sheridan | ESPNNewYork.com

TORONTO -- Coach Mike D'Antoni called Amare Stoudemire's performance a near "cripple-double," which it's fair to say qualifies as humorous.

And this is important, you ask, because ... ?

Well, it goes back to what transpired after the morning shootaround on the day of the Knicks' season opener against the Raptors, when a Canadian TV reporter threw D'Antoni for a loop by asking why he had a reputation as being humorless.

D'Antoni might be a lot of things, but humorless is not one of them.

[+] EnlargeAmare Stoudemire
Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty ImagesDespite a near "cripple-double," Amare Stoudemire helped the Knicks to a season-opening win Wednesday night in Toronto.

And so it was with great pride that he accepted congratulations on the use of the term cripple-double to describe Stoudemire's 19-point, 10-rebound, nine-turnover performance Wednesday night as New York opened the 2010-11 season with a 98-93 victory over the Raptors.

"I'm trying to get back my reputation on that," D'Antoni said. "I don't know what happened with that. I'm normally funny when we win."

The victory gave the Knicks a winning record for the first time in 23 months. The last time they were above .500 was Nov. 22, 2008, when they were 7-6 in D'Antoni's first season as coach.

The funny thing was, this Knicks victory did not come the way one would have expected, from the team's revamped roster.

Because as good as Stoudemire was down the stretch, scoring on four straight possessions to give the Knicks an eight-point lead with 2:40 remaining, he was hardly the key to this victory.

"From a high school grade scale, I don't know, a B?" Stoudemire said when asked to grade his performance. "It wasn't a great ballgame for me. Down the stretch I was able to score the ball when we most needed it, and we got the win."

Wilson Chandler was one of the other key contributors, scoring 22 points on 10-of-18 shooting and playing strong defense on Toronto center Andrea Bargnani in the second half as part of his debut as the team's new sixth man following his demotion from the starting lineup in favor of rookie Landry Fields.

"Like I said, no matter where he puts me at, I'm going to try do something to help the team," Chandler said. "I didn't take it personally. I took it as he had a better lineup, and he's a good coach, so I just go along with what he says.

"I was not trying to be overly aggressive, just trying to give us a boost off the bench. It could change; it could stay the same. Whatever he tells me, I'm here."

Thanks in large part to Chandler, the Knicks got 41 points from their reserves on a night when Danilo Gallinari's preseason struggles carried into the regular season, when Timofey Mozgov (no points and four fouls in 7½ minutes) got his official introduction to How NBA Officials Call Games Involving Rookie European Centers, and when two members of the 10-man rotation, Bill Walker and Roger Mason, combined to take nine shots between them and miss every single one.

Fields made his first two shots, both 3-pointers, and had all four of his rebounds in the fourth quarter. Ronny Turiaf played especially well in a 13-2 run bridging the first and second quarters that helped the Knicks open a 16-point lead, Toney Douglas was effective when he was driving the ball and shooting from close range (5-for-6) instead of long range (0-for-3 on 3s), and starting point guard Raymond Felton (16 points, six assists, six rebounds) basically played Toronto's Jarrett Jack to a draw.

"There'll be nights when we have other guys step in. That's the beauty of having 10 guys that can come into a game at any time. We'll ride them when they play well, and we'll use other guys when they don't," D'Antoni said.

It complicated things for the Knicks' new "Max Man" when Toronto used a sort of hybrid box-and-one zone to defend Stoudemire, often sending a second and third defender at him when he caught the ball on the low block.

Often, the result was a ball bouncing out of bounds off his feet or getting swiped from his hands. But in crunch time, Stoudemire came through.

"That's him. We'll go to him, and he'll get stronger as we go on, but he'll know that they'll send the whole team after him, too," D'Antoni said. "So it's going to be a fine line between being very aggressive and being the facilitator, and hopefully we can get to that point, because that's what we're going to need. We can't expect Amare to do it every time, all the time. We have to have other guys around him get comfortable and play the way they did tonight.

"Obviously we've got to get a lot better, and this was the first game for everybody. We'll do that. But in the meantime, just keep the energy and the defense, and if we get the wins when we're learning to play with each other, it's going to be a pretty good season."

Chris Sheridan is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.

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