Amare’s All Star nod

The voters have spoken, deeming New York Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire a more worthy All-Star candidate than Boston’s Kevin Garnett.

The National Basketball Association announced this week that Stoudemire was voted in by the fans to start alongside LeBron James at forward for the Eastern Conference at the NBA’s showcase event in Los Angeles on 20 February.

After holding a lead of roughly 94,000 votes after the last round of voting results were announced two weeks ago, Stoudemire more than doubled that margin when final vote counts were released. Stoudemire received 1,674,995 votes while Garnett garnered 1,407,601.

In spite of the accolade Stoudemire was focused on the increased physical play teams are using on him.

“I’m starting to get injured a lot,” Stoudemire said. “My shoulders, arms, hands are starting to get banged up a lot. It’s a little frustrating.”

Whether or not Stoudemire is healthy enough for the All Star game remains to be seen. What is clear is that Stoudemire has had a far better year than Garnett. He had a streak of 26 consecutive games with 20+ points, he has eclipsed 30 points 15 times and produced 20 double-doubles. He is the NBA’s second-leading scorer averaging 26.1 points and ranks 12th in rebounding with 9.0 per game. Garnett meanwhile is averaging 15 points a game, 8.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists.

“You have to pick one and I’m glad it’s Amare because I’m with the Knicks,” New York coach Mike D’Antoni said. “It’s the same when coaches start to pick the other seven. Instead of seven there’s usually 10 that are deserving and somebody has to be left off and that’s too bad.”

Stoudemire becomes the first member of the Knicks voted into the starting lineup for the All-Star Game since Patrick Ewing in 1997 (when an injury kept him from playing). Ewing also was an All-Star starter from 1990-92. This will be the sixth All-Star appearance for Stoudemire, who has led the Knicks to a winning record and a second place spot in the Atlantic division.

He also has emerged as a leader in a Knicks locker room that underwent a thorough overhaul in the offseason. Of the 15 players on the roster only Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Toney Douglas, Bill Walker and Eddy Curry were with the Knicks last season.

Stoudemire will start alongside LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose. Voted in as starters for the Western Conference were Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Yao Ming and Chris Paul. Coach D’Antoni states that starting spot is a long-time coming.

“[Stoudemire] was always good,” D’Antoni said. “He was always first-team All-NBA and we won 60 games in Phoenix, so there were a lot of positives. And Steve [Nash] was such a presence, and Amare being the youngest of all those guys, Shawn Marion and Raja Bell were leaders themselves, so it really didn’t call on him to be a leader per se.

“But he’s taken over this team, and you see it when you’re 3-8, you see it when you’ve lost six in a row, how are you going to respond at that point? It was easy when things were going well in Phoenix.”