Hamilton: Stoudemire rejoining Knicks after best start since ’73

NEW YORK — After 25 games, at 19-6, we can stop wondering if the Knicks are good enough to host a first-round playoff series.

Knicks fans should start thinking much bigger than that, because the ‘Bockers  haven’t been this good in a long, long time.

The last time the Knicks won at least 19 of their first 25 games, Phil Jackson was a 27-year-old backup power forward  and Walt Frazier was still searching for his second championship ring. (He’d get it later that season).

It was all the way back in 1972-73, when the Knicks began the season 20-5.

Three years prior, the Knicks enjoyed what remains the best 25-game start in franchise history — 22-3.

The reason why that’s important? Those just so happened to be the only two times the Knicks won the NBA championship.

Pretty much everyone 50 and under in New York has no memory of the team winning a title.

In franchise history, the Knicks began a season 18-7 seven times and didn’t win the title in any of those seasons. So if Knicks fans are looking for some extra reason to believe in their team, there you have it: 19-6.

Though rather minuscule in the grand scheme of things, Carmelo Anthony has led his team to a place Patrick Ewing never could. But the best news for this Knicks team and their title odds is the fact that Amar’e Stoudemire’s return is imminent.

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Though Stoudemire and Anthony have yet to prove that they can consistently excel together, the prospect of adding a talent such as Stoudemire to the rotation is cause for excitement.

It should be welcomed, not feared.

At the very least, Stoudemire will provide the Knicks with another offensive weapon that teams will have to game plan and prepare for. But at most, he could be the final piece of the Knicks championship puzzle, it really all depends on what he is able to do on the court.

After the Knicks defeated the Nets on Wednesday night, I spoke with J.R. Smith and asked him—quite bluntly—what has gotten into him. Smith, along with Anthony, is playing the best basketball of his career.

He, too, has lost weight since last season. He’s been especially focused on the defensive end.

“I just don’t want to disappoint my coach. I want to fulfill his expectations, especially on he defensive end,” Smith said.

Credit coach Woodson for that. Somehow, he’s been able to reach both Smith and Anthony. Both have cited him and his leadership and his ability to galvanize his team toward a common goal as being partially responsible for their success.

Now consider: What if Woodson can have the same effect on Stoudemire?

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