Oakley doubts new stars have elite potential

Charles Oakley hopes to see the Knicks return to the heights they reached in the 1990s, when he and Patrick Ewing patrolled the paint at Madison Square Garden.

But Oakley is not convinced the team’s current power forward, Amar’e Stoudemire, is the man to get them there.

"Amar’e’s good, he’s good in his way," Oakley said Saturday at the launch of his clothing collection at K1X’s store in downtown New York. "He’s a West Coast player trying to translate to the East Coast. And the longer he plays in the East, the more his body’s gonna get damaged, because he’s got to take a beating now."

In a wide-ranging interview session, the always colorful Oakley, now an assistant coach with the Bobcats and still a fan favorite in New York for his hard-nosed game, made his feelings known about the Knicks.

Not surprisingly, Oakley, who played for the Knicks from 1988-98 and established his tough-guy reputation by playing defense and grabbing rebounds, is not a fan of Mike D’Antoni’s run-and-gun system.

"I don’t think [it can be successful], but that’s his coaching style," Oakley said. "They knew when they signed him … When you go buy a Bentley, you know it’s not a Volkswagen. When they signed him, they knew what they were getting. That conversation should be dead, because it’s a West Coast offense playing in a hard-nosed city."

Oakley, added, "You always give somebody a chance to prove themselves. I mean, this is his fourth year. He’s had a lot of time … I think it’s just more half-court offense, and they need the big, tough guy. He don’t want to play that way, but finesse, it’s not gonna work."

Although the signing of Stoudemire before last season was the first step in what Knicks fans hoped was the team’s return to the league’s elite, those hopes were pushed to new heights when the franchise acquired Carmelo Anthony at the trade deadline.

But Oakley remains unconvinced the Knicks have what it takes to become an elite team.

"I mean, they’ve got hype," he said. "But hype don’t win nothing."

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