Trail Blazers-Knicks Preview

The New York Knicks acquired Amar’e Stoudemire hoping he could

return them to relevance and energize their frustrated fan

base.

Stoudemire gets his first chance to prove to the Madison Square

Garden faithful that he can match the hype as the Knicks face the

Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night.

New York (1-1) has been a franchise in decay for much of the

last nine seasons, reaching the playoffs once while failing to post

a winning record. The club also struck out in its bid to land one

of the top free agents last summer despite reports it was

positioned to sign LeBron James, Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade.

Instead, the Knicks settled on Stoudemire, a five-time All-Star

who spent the last eight seasons with Phoenix – five playing for

current Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni.

“It’s about challenges and this is definitely the ultimate

challenge for myself to eventually bring the Knicks back to where

they rightfully belong,” Stoudemire said at his introductory news

conference in July.

Through two games, Stoudemire is proving he can be a significant

part of the Knicks’ revitalization. The forward scored 19 points

and grabbed 10 rebounds with two blocks in a season-opening 98-93

win at Toronto on Wednesday. He followed that up two nights later

with 27 points and eight boards while swatting away two more shots

in a 105-101 loss at Boston.

While Stoudemire is considered the main offensive cog for New

York, Wilson Chandler is providing a spark off the bench, averaging

20.5 points and 7.0 rebounds through two games. The forward had a

career-high 15.3 points per game last season, while adding 5.4

boards.

That support could come in handy as Stoudemire looks to make a

strong impression in his MSG debut with the Knicks, who have

dropped six of eight home openers.

New York went 18-23 at MSG last season and faces a stiff test

against the Trail Blazers (2-0), who are looking for their first

3-0 start since opening the 1999-200 season with four wins.

The Knicks have dropped six of seven overall to Portland, and

the home team won both meetings last season.

The Trail Blazers are out to spoil another home debut after

beating the Los Angeles Clippers 98-88 on Wednesday in Blake

Griffin’s first game. The performance came a night after Portland

opened the season with a 106-92 victory over Phoenix.

Brandon Roy is a big reason for the Blazers’ strong start,

totaling 46 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists through two

games. The swingman is averaging 25.3 points in four games at New

York.

He’s also been getting strong support from Nicolas Batum, who

had 15 points and six boards against the Clippers after posting 19

and 11, respectively, in the season opener. The French swingman

averaged 10.1 points and 3.8 rebounds while injuries limited him to

37 games last season – his second in the NBA.

Batum had 20 points in a 118-90 win over the Knicks in the most

recent meeting March 31.