For the first time in 23 months, the New York Knicks find themselves above .500 in the regular season.
New York won its season opener in Toronto, 98-93. Led by their new $100 million man, the Knicks got off to a hot start against a rebuilding Raptors team that is coming of its most disappointing offseason in franchise history.
Amar'e Stoudemire faced tight coverage and double-teams all night long. He was sloppy at times, committing a team-high nine turnovers, but used his uncanny athleticism to will 19 points and 10 boards in his debut as the leader of one of the NBA's most storied franchises.
"You want to beat the teams you feel you're supposed to beat, so tonight was a big win for us," Stoudemire said after the close win.
It was all business for a team determined to get back to the postseason after a six-year drought.
Wilson Chandler, who found himself coming off the bench, didn't seem to be phased by Mike D'Antoni's decision, as he led the Knicks with 22 points.
"I didn't take it personally," Chandler said. "I just took it as he had a better lineup. He's a good coach so I just go along with what he says."
D'Antoni finally has the athletes he needs to make his high-powered offense thrive in the Big Apple.
He started two rookies he believes must contribute instantly in order for the Knicks to contend for a playoff berth.
Russian-born Center Timofey Mozgov looked like a rookie in his first NBA game, failing to score a single point in only seven minutes of foul-troubled basketball.
Landry Fields looked ready to take on the task, playing 30 minutes and tallying 11 points including three buckets from downtown.
Two other Knick acquisitions, free agent pickup Raymond Felton and Ronnie Turiaf, acquired from Golden State in the David Lee sign-and-trade teal, were glues to the offense and defense, respectively.
Felton scored 15 points, while racking-up six boards and six assists in his first game as a Knick. Turiaf served as New York's main big man off the bench with the raw and talented Anthony Randolph sidelined for two weeks with an ankle injury. The French forward had four blocks and played tough defense, giving the Knicks the strong low-post defender they have been lacking in recent years.
Star forward Danilo Gallinari looked like the Carmelo Anthony trade rumors were still in his mind, scoring just 12 points on nine shots from the field and tallying six rebounds in 33 minutes of action.
No doubt the Knicks will be facing a tough task Friday in Beantown, as they visit the rival Celtics, who were just minutes away from becoming NBA champions last season and who have already taken down the big three of Miami.
"We'll see if we can steal one," Stoudemire said of Friday's matchup. "They're playing great so we'll see what we can do."
The Knicks obviously have an steep hill to climb, but Wednesday gave Knick fans hope of what may become if they can finally play consistently throughout a season.
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