Even before Amare Stoudemire took the podium at the Garden on Thursday afternoon, he proclaimed, “The Knicks are back!”


Now that LeBron James has chosen the Miami Heat, though, the Knicks may only be halfway back. Still, that hasn't deterred the Knicks from talking big. Stoudemire was overly optimistic that the Knicks are on the right track and said his job isn’t done yet, as he’ll be working the recruiting trails this summer trying to round out New York’s roster.

As it currently stands, the Knicks only have Stoudemire, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Bill Walker, Toney Douglas and Eddy Curry, under contract.

“I’ll have some input,” Stoudemire said about the behind-the-scenes work that still needs to be done. “The biggest challenge is to build a team and have guys who want to come to New York.”

Head coach Mike D’Antoni agreed that it takes a certain type of player to want to be here and said he’s confident that even if the Knicks only nabbed Stoudemire this summer, he can still carry the load as a franchise player.

“New York is not for everybody because it’s a big stage and you have to show some guts and grit and come everyday to work,” said D’Antoni. “Amare is ready to do that. And I’m sure we’ll have other guys to follow him and we’ll see who else steps up to the challenge.”

According to sources, team president Donnie Walsh is far from done. Although he considers Stoudemire a prized free agent acquisition, Walsh said there’s more to be had.

“He’s the first step because he’s an elite power forward and we expect big things from Amar’e,” said Walsh. “Two years ago we set up a plan to ensure flexibility and that plan helped us get Amare.

Ownership is committed to winning and this is a major step to help get us there. But we still have a lot of money under the cap to sign or trade for additional players and we intend on doing that.”

Hours after that statement, the team sent power forward David Lee to Golden State for forwards Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike and Ronny Turiaf. It’s a win-win all around, as Lee gets the big contract he deserves, while Randolph and Turiaf fit nicely into D’Antoni’s uptempo offense. The lithe 6-foot-10 Randolph, who’s been compared to Lamar Odom because of his versatility, figures to thrive playing alongside Stoudemire. Last season Randolph played sparingly, averaging 11.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and one block per game in only 23 minutes. But when stretched out to per 36 minutes, the third-year forward averages 16.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game.

Stoudemire was all smiles before the deal went down. The five-time All-Star said whoever they add, this is the “start of a new era."

“New York is by far the best city in the world,” he said. “The city is on fire and right now so am I. We’re looking to win a championship. It takes focus and discipline to be ready and willing to accept those challenges and bring the Knicks back to where they belong.”

Even though LeBron now belongs to the Heat, Stoudemire assured Knicks fans he would try to lure another future free agent to the mecca of basketball. Stoudemire plans to work the room at Carmelo Anthony's wedding this weekend.

“It’ll be a little bit of both,” he grinned when asked if conversations at Anthony’s wedding will be about the ceremony or recruiting. “Even without LeBron we’ll still have next summer to try and land some guys,” he said.

Amare alone won’t bring home a championship, but New York looks to be on its way to being relevant again. And no one was more appreciative of Stoudemire’s signing – and the perseverance of the fans -- than Knicks owner Jim Dolan.

“It takes courage to play where the lights shine the brightest,” said Dolan, who made a rare public appearance. “Also, leadership, character, and the confidence to step up and say, ‘I’ll go first.’ It takes great skill to succeed in the number one market and we have all these factors in Amar’e Stoudemire. We’re proud to name him a New York Knick.

“Also, thanks to the fans who stuck with us in troubled times. We didn’t have the record to justify our fans cheering at home games where it felt like the seventh game of the NBA finals. But thank you.”

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