Amare ready for manic March to end

NEW YORK -- Amare Stoudemire sauntered into the locker room about a half hour after the New York Knicks' overtime win against the Orlando Magic on Monday night with ice wrapped on his ankles and a bandage on his hip.

After walking gingerly to his locker, Stoudemire told a friend that his hip and feet were "killing" him after he played more than 44 minutes against Orlando, the sixth time this month he's played more than 40.

"It's been maybe the hardest month I've played in my career," Stoudemire said minutes later. "So many games, so many back-to-backs. And then they threw in the makeup game [for the November game against Orlando canceled due to an asbestos scare] in this month.

"So it was very, very tough. And on top of that, we're trying to get used to our new teammates. So it was a tough one for us."

The Knicks began their 18-game March on the road against the Magic. They close the month on Wednesday at home against the Nets. (In like a lion, out like a lamb?)

In between, they completed six sets of back-to-back games and two stretches of four games in five nights. All the while, Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni was trying to incorporate the new players obtained in the Carmelo Anthony trade.

They've gone 6-11 so far, suffering through a season-high six-game losing streak and playing without more than two days off between games all month. (They had one two-day break, March 11-12.)

There's no doubt that the Manic March has worn on the players and D'Antoni, with a few Knicks noting they were fatigued last week.

"Lot of games, lot of nights, lot of things, and who knows what causes it. Sometimes things sap your energy and you might not even be aware of it," D'Antoni said after Monday night's win, which snapped that season-high losing streak.

"But with efforts like this, the team will come together and we'll be better for it."

Seven of the Knicks' 11 losses this month came against Eastern Conference teams with sub.-500 records. They caught a break in Monday night's win over the Magic; Stan Van Gundy's squad was without starting point guard Jameer Nelson and reserve Quentin Richardson.

Prior to the Magic game, D'Antoni called for a morning shootaround on the day of a home game for the first time this season. It was a changeup of sorts, as the coach had complained earlier in the month about not having enough practice time for Anthony, Chauncey Billups and other new players to get accustomed to the team's schemes.

Dwight Howard, who didn't have a field goal in the first half but finished with 29 points and 18 rebounds on Monday, noticed a different Knicks team than the one the Magic crushed in the fourth quarter of its 111-99 win on March 23.

"I think New York played with a lot more energy," Howard said. "They hit some tough shots tonight, they moved the ball, they played like the Knick team we saw earlier in the season."

D'Antoni canceled practice Tuesday and again called for a shootaround Wednesday morning prior to the Nets game.

Stoudemire likely appreciated the extra day off. He'd been averaging just 19 points on 41 percent shooting in the Knicks' losing streak. He scored a season-low 13 points against Orlando last week and just 14 three nights later in Charlotte.

Stoudemire suggested after the most recent loss to the Magic that the minutes and losses in March were taking a toll him. But he was able to crack a smile and celebrate with Anthony after the Knicks sealed their win over Orlando late Monday night.

"We tried to get through the month on a positive note, [and] winning always cures all problems," he said after the game. "We felt like tonight was a great sign for us to really get it going."