Amare back in town with a healthy back

After spending much of the summer at his rented house in Hollywood Hills, Calif., Amare Stoudemire returned to New York City on Wednesday to speak to a small group of 10- to 12-year-olds about the importance of education.

More importantly, for the Knicks community that is, Stoudemire shared two pieces of very promising news at Harlem’s Polo Grounds Community Center. He said he feels great and starting Monday he’ll be back to high-intensity workouts – the kind of "back" fans want to hear. The second key note is that he’s hearing the lockout may be resolved sooner than later. (Let's not forget teammate Roger Mason Jr. is the vice president of the NBA players' union.)

After Stoudemire fielded questions from the students and posed for a group photo, he met with several members of the New York media for roughly 10 minutes to share his thoughts on an array of topics. Check out the video above for Stoudemire's take on his health, the lockout and getting the whole team together in Bradenton, Florida, where he's organizing a training camp at IMG Basketball Academy.

Here are some significant snippets not included in the video:

On the addition of assistant coach Mike Woodson: "I think it's great. It's definitely what we've talked about, improving defensively and I think with Mike, it's going to be positive for us. But it's up to us, as players, to take that commitment to want to implement it ourselves defensively. That's something that we have to do. ... In order for us to win a championship, defense has to be a primary for us. It has to be something that we have to focus in on; everybody has to buy into it and we have to get much better. We have to become one of the better defensive teams in the league."

On the health of Toney Douglas, who underwent shoulder surgery in May: "I haven't talked to him, but I heard about his procedure and that it went well and that he's doing great."

On his recent trip to Shanghai, China: "I hadn't shot any hoops in about two, three months prior to that. The MC was like, "Yeah, Amare's in the 3-point contest." I'm like, "Huh" [laughs]? So I go out to the court and I start shooting. I think in the first round I played against LaMarcus Aldridge. I got 17 points in the 3-point contest. In the next round, I shot against Chris Bosh. I think I had 19 points and I got this huge trophy that I had no idea I was going to get. I asked the guy. I was like, "What is this for?" He said, "You just won the 3-point shootout in front of 1.4 billion people."

On his visit to the Polo Grounds Community Center: "I wanted to do something for the community. I wanted to sit down and talk to a small amount of kids about education and how important it is. It was great, man. The kids were totally tuned in. I saw all eye contact when I was talking to them, so it was definitely great. ... I showed them my reading tattoo. I was just explaining to them how important it is to read; that it's cool to read. A lot of these kids don't think it's cool to read. ... When I was their age, I wanted to be a school teacher. I didn't start playing basketball until I was 14, so before then school teaching was fun to me. I wanted to figure out ways to teach and make it fun for students. I had an American government class and the teacher was extremely fun and she made it to where if you answered the question right, you played miniature golf right there in class. It really worked for me because I studied more then and I wanted to have the correct answers. I was an honor roll student for a few years growing up, so I took school seriously."

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