STAT's goal: Be a 'better defensive player'

Amar'e Stoudemire has a new outlook on life in the NBA now that he’s fully healthy.

“My joy is there. My love of the game is there," Stoudemire said before the Knicks’ preseason game Monday. "I feel like I’m 19 again, as far as how much I love to play the game of basketball. I feel youthful. To have that type of feeling again, as I had my rookie year, to want to play and just want to be out there and get better as a player is pretty encouraging.”

Stoudemire said he'd lost a certain sense of joy due to various injuries over the past few years.

For the first time in years, Amar'e is entering this season fully healthy; that health has given Stoudemire the confidence to make some bold predictions. He said he wants to return to All-Star form and get back to being "dominant" -- as he was in the first half of his first season in New York.

Stoudemire added another goal to his list Monday.

“My goal this year is to become a better defensive player and be known as a defensive player,” he said.

Stoudemire hasn’t been known as a strong defender in recent seasons. Last year, the 31-year-old ranked 87th out of 88 power forwards in defensive real plus-minus, a stat that measures a player’s defensive impact. This past season, the Knicks allowed five fewer points per 100 possessions when Stoudemire was not on the floor.

"It’s a challenge I’ve got to accept, and I’m willing to accept it,” Stoudemire said.

Stoudemire revealed his defensive goals during a conversation about playing defense as a center, which is where he started Monday's game.

Derek Fisher wanted to experiment with Stoudemire at center on Monday and started him alongside Quincy Acy at power forward.

“The game’s changed a lot in the last several years, and [there are] very few prototypical centers in terms of size and build," Fisher said. "Amar’e’s still physically imposing, even though he’s not 7-feet tall. We kind of feel good about some things he might be able to do for us offensively and defensively at that position. We’ve seen it in practice some. We thought it was a great chance to take a look.”

Question: What are your expectations for Stoudemire this season? Do you think he can fulfill his goal of improving on the defensive end? Do you think the Knicks should give him a look at center?

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