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PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Former Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy says he’s dubious of the Knicks guards and of Amar’e Stoudemire’s offensive capabilities and doubts the Knicks have any shot at surpassing the Miami Heat for Eastern Conference supremacy.
“Their guard situation is very uncertain,” Van Gundy told SNY.tv during an exclusive interview at the Brayden Carr Foundation clinic Friday at Rutgers.
“[Iman] Shumpert when he comes back [from ACL surgery] will help them a great deal. I thought he was great defensively. But who’s playing the point?”
Told that Raymond Felton is penciled in to start at the point, Van Gundy seemed doubtful.
“He had his best year there, but he had his best year with [former coach] Mike [D'Antoni],” Van Gundy said. “It will be interesting to me if their guards are good enough to get them to where they want to go and I certainly don’t think they’re in Miami’s realm. I’m not even sure they’re in Boston’s realm or Chicago’s when [Derrick] Rose come back. Them and New Jersey are both lower-tier playoff teams.”
Van Gundy also has major doubts about whether Stoudemire can ever be the offensive force he was under D’Antoni with the Phoenix Suns.
“I like New York’s team,” Van Gundy said. “The thing to me is they haven’t quite figured out to get Amar’e going and get his numbers up. Carmelo [Anthony] is going to get his, he’s a great player. He’s going to get other people involved.
“But if you really go back in Amar’e's career, I know he doesn’t like playing center, but his best offensive years were all at center. Matching up against guys where he had quickness, he could pull them away from the basket.
“Now he’s at power forward and those guys can guard him a little bit more. They need to play [Tyson] Chandler [at center] because his defense is so good. I don’t know how Amar’e’ offense fits.”
Moreover, Van Gundy said, the Knicks and everyone else in the East still trail the Heat after Miami added Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis during the offseason.
“I don’t see anybody pushing the Heat very hard, I just don’t,” he said. “I think their pieces fit. I think that they did a good job in the offseason, I think they actually got better.
“I think Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis are going to be big helps to what they’re doing. Their depth has just increased quite a bit.”
As for his former star, Dwight Howard, heading West to the Lakers, along with Steve Nash, who spurned the Knicks, Van Gundy said, “On paper, they’re good.
“I think it’s how much Kobe [Bryant] and Steve Nash age is really the issue because they’ve obviously got great players,” he said. “Nash looked last year like he still had a lot in the tank, though he only played about 24, 25 minutes a game. Kobe’s still great, he’s not what he was, but he’s still great.
“But Dwight helps them so much, and if they get [Pau] Gasol more involved on the offensive end, I’ve been picking them to beat Oklahoma City in the West.”
Still, Van Gundy said he wonders whether the Lakers have enough shooting.
“They don’t have much reliable shooting outside STeve Nash and so I think people will be able to pack the paint and make it a little bit tougher,” he said. “But still I’ll take them because I think defensively they’re going to be overwhelming. EVen though Nash struggles, the other four guys are good defenders and Dwight’s the best defender in the league.”
Overall, Van Gundy likes the Heat over the Lakers or the Thunder in the Finals.
“But I don’t think either one of those teams, L.A. or Oklahoma City, at their best,” he said, “I do not think they beat Miami,”