Amare Stoudemire: "I never had a clue on how fun defense really is because we never played it"

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It’s seemed a revelation in the playoffs, but the Suns started playing defense just after the All-Star Break. Seriously. They kept putting up the mountains of points, but from the All-Star Game to the end of the season, the Suns were 12th in defensive efficiency in he league (according to ESPN’s John Hollinger).

Not great, but not bad, and with their offense all they need to be is not bad.

Since the game two switch of Grant Hill Defensive Stopper (still just weird to type that) on to Andre Miller in the Blazers/Suns series, the Suns defense is winning them a playoff series. Even Amare Stoudemire is in on the act, slowing LaMarcus Aldridge.

The Suns are having fun with this, according to the Arizona Republic:

“I never had a clue on how fun defense really is because we never played it,” Stoudemire said. “It was just such a great offensive team. We never talked about defense. There’s no weak link on the court defensively. We now are known as somewhat of a defensive team. It may get overshadowed here or there because we score so well.”

What sparked all this? A Jason Terry comment. Seriously.

On Jan. 28, a 26-21 Suns team was losing at home at halftime when the Suns locker room television became a mirror of truth.

There, for the Suns to see, Terry was giving a TNT halftime interview and saying: “We’ve got to score on these guys. They’re not very good defensively and we’ve got to make them pay.”

“With all the repetition and practice, it (Terry’s comment) sparked more of a defensive mind-set for us because we knew we had to defend to win that game,” Suns forward Grant Hill said. “We get in huddles and timeouts in fourth quarters or tough stretches and we talk about getting stops. Whereas before, we were always thinking about our offense. That comment sparked something in us that became personal when he said that.”

It is defense that is going to move the Suns on to the second round. It is defense that could have them upsetting the Mavericks (or maybe beating the Spurs is more likely).

Who knew it could be fun?

Gallinari ready to take big role in new Nuggets offense

Danilo Gallinari, Jimmy Butler
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DENVER (AP) — Danilo Gallinari wants everyone to know this: His surgically repaired left knee, the one that took three procedures to fix and nearly two seasons to fully trust, no longer bothers him.

The Denver Nuggets forward doesn’t need to be on any sort of minutes restriction. He doesn’t need days off during the season. And he certainly doesn’t need to be coddled.

He’s Gallo again, the hard-to-guard Italian playmaker who can knock down the 3-pointer just as easily as drive to the hoop or even post up. He believes he will fit in quite nicely into new coach Michael Malone’s system.

“The thing I’m focused on is trying to get (this team) back to the same level that the Nuggets were when I got to Denver, when we were going to the playoffs easy. When we were clinching a playoff one or two weeks before the season was over,” said Gallinari, who was acquired in the 2011 blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. “We need to get back to that level.”

Almost seems so long ago, given that the Nuggets have missed the playoffs two straight seasons after consistently making it for nearly a decade.

Gallinari returned last season for the first time since blowing out his knee in a game on April 4, 2013. His minutes were closely monitored early in the season. He never really got completely on track until late last season, when he averaged 20.5 points over the final 10 contests, including a career-high 47 against Dallas. He’s hoping to carry that kind of confidence this season.

“I’m good to go. I was good to go as soon as the beginning of last year,” Gallinari said. “I was not on the same page with the coach that we had.”

That would be Brian Shaw, who was fired last March after 1 1/2 seasons in charge and going 56-85. Exactly why he wasn’t on the same page with Shaw, well, Gallinari preferred the past remain the past.

“I’m ready to play the new season,” he said. “We need to win games, and get back to the same level we were before.”

Gallinari thinks the Nuggets have the personnel to do just that, especially with a rookie point guard in Emmanuel Mudiay and Gallinari’s knee feeling better than it has in a while. He feels like he has some ground to make up, too, since he said that knee robbed him of some of his prime.

“Playing my best basketball right before I got injured,” the 27-year old said. “Now, we’re back to the same level, hopefully better.

“My knee has been feeling great. It felt great last year. Feeling great during the summer. Feeling great now. I just feel good.”

He spent the summer playing for the Italian team at the EuroBasket tournament, where he averaged nearly 18 points a game. In those games, Gallinari saw quite a bit of time at the four spot on the floor, forcing teams to either use a bulkier big man to cover him and risk getting burned on a drive or a smaller player that Gallinari could simply shoot over.

Malone plans to employ a similar type approach, something they discussed over gelato when the coach visited Gallinari in Italy soon after he was hired.

“He’s 6-foot-10. He can handle the ball. He can play pick-and-roll. He can stretch the floor and shoot the 3,” Malone said. “There’s not a lot he can’t do offensively.”

Gallinari wants the responsibility of being the go-to player for the Nuggets this season, especially at crunch time.

“I’ve always been trying to do that, since I came to Denver,” Gallinari said. “That’s what I like to do. I feel good filling those shoes.

“I want to have the ball in my hands. I do want to have the ball in my hands a lot more.”

Knicks’ Rookie Jerian Grant gets up, throws it down (VIDEO)

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The Knicks did well trading for Jerian Grant on date night — he’s going to be able to walk in this year and play quality minutes off the bench.

And, he can get up and throw it down.

Carmelo Anthony had 18 points to lead the Knicks to a 94-88 win over the Sixers.