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Amare Stoudemire says nobody ever taught him defense

Nov 26, 2010, 1:59 PM EDT

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The Knicks are not a defensive powerhouse, but that was to be expected with Mike D’Antoni as the coach and Amar’e Stoudemire as the star, right? Stoudemire did make a spectacular block on Stephen Jackson at the end of the Bobcats game, and he’s done that to others, but plays like that are simply a counterbalance for a number of other defensive lapses.

And whose fault is it that Stoudemire is a less-than-stellar defender? Well, not his because nobody really taught him how until Alvin Gentry. That’s what Stoudemire told the Daily News (via Slam), when discussing his lackluster defensive reputation.

“It was fair,” he said. “I was never taught defense. I just never was taught it in high school and also in the NBA…”

“I’ve got to give it to Alvin Gentry,” Stoudemire added. “He really implemented some strategies that were helpful to me. I took what I learned last year and carried it over to this year.”

Just for the record, the Suns defensive efficiency (points given up per possession) was worse under Gentry then it had been under any D’Antoni team. Maybe Gentry taught defense better, the Suns certainly didn’t play it better under him. But why should we let pesky little facts get in the way of a good insult.

And that comment was pretty much a slap to Mike D’Antoni. Intended or not. Those two had a pretty frosty relationship in Phoenix that was warmed by necessity this summer — the Knicks needed a star after LeBron looked elsewhere and Stoudemire “needed” a max deal. So far the reunification has worked as the Knicks are 8-8 and not an embarrassment. That’s a big step forward. Not the goal but a step in the right direction rather than into a hole, for a change.

Winning has a way of making things like this blow over, and the Knicks (if they can keep this pace up) are winning just enough for that to happen. But let’s not pretend that the light of how to play defense came on for Stoudemire under Gentry. We watch Knicks games, we’re not sure that light has ever really come on, just flickered now and again.

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