The Knicks face the Magic for the first time this season tonight in Orlando. It would be their second meeting, but an early-season matchup in New York had to be rescheduled when Madison Square Garden officials grew wary of the contents of the World's Most Famous Ceiling. Tonight's game will be played at the brand-new Amway Center, so unless the Knicks brought some asbestos (or napalm or wasps or something. It's good to mix things up) in their luggage, everything should go as planned. The 20–12 Magic aren't quite as dominant as Florida's other titan, who the Knicks met earlier this week, but they do pose some major matchup issues. The newly acquired Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas are outside threats, and Jameer Nelson should be a tough cover for Raymond Felton, while Dwight Howard will be the main burden of the Knick frontcourt. At roughly nine feet tall with quadriceps for biceps, Howard has the power to expose Mike D'Antoni's rather small lineup. Amar'e Stoudemire — a natural power forward — will face Howard at the center position and will have his work cut out for him.
The smaller Stoudemire (the phrase "relatively speaking" couldn't apply more) will need to utilize his quickness and mid-range game to overcome Howard on offense. On the other end, he'll need to keep Howard away from the rim. Amar'e is looking forward to it:
"He's definitely a physical specimen down there in the post," Stoudemire said of Howard. "He's definitely a great defensive player. Offensively, he's a little limited, so we're going to use that to our advantage.
"He's so strong once he catches the ball in the paint. He's hard to guard," added Stoudemire, who said he was briefly a Magic fan. "But if you can get him outside the paint and make him put the ball on the floor, it's easier for us."
The Orlando area also happens to be where Stoudemire spent much of his childhood and high-school playing career, which is something he eventually hopes to share:
"The story of my high school years is unbelievable," Stoudemire said earlier this week in Miami. "I'm going to write a book some day. It was unbelievable for me to stay focused, to continue to work out and stay out of trouble. When I look back now, it was pretty remarkable.
With a long, difficult path to NBA stardom, Stoudemire definitely has plenty of material to cover. If you're looking for a book about magic, though, look elsewhere.
The Knicks and Magic tip off at 7 p.m. EST and will be televised on TNT (and not MSG). Let's see if the Knicks can make their Florida trip worthwhile.