TORONTO -- Knicks executive Allan Houston told The Post Amar'e Stoudemire's arrival has meant to the franchise as much as when the club won the 1985 Draft Lottery and Patrick Ewing came onto the scene to revive a dead team.
The Post has learned Houston was recently granted a new title of assistant general manager after his contract expired last month. The assistant GM title replaces his nebulous moniker of assistant to team president Donnie Walsh.
At 11-9, the Knicks are off to their best start after 20 games since 2001-02 (when they also started 11-9). Stoudemire notched his third straight game of 30-plus points Friday night in New Orleans when the Knicks upset the Hornets 100-92 for their sixth straight road win. On a 8-1 roll, they face the Raptors today at 1 p.m. at Air Canada Centre.
"To me, he has had as much impact on this franchise as Patrick," Houston said. "The timing, the circumstances, his personality and demeanor, leadership, all wrapped up -- given his talent -- is the impact Patrick had when he came.
"What he's done is brought in a presence: 'I'll take the burden on my shoulders. I'll take the criticism. I'll take the good with the bad. I'm going to be the one -- if people put it on me, I'm OK with that.' "
Houston traveled with the Knicks to The Big Easy, with Walsh still not attending games after hip-replacement surgery.
As superstar Hornets point guard Chris Paul left New Orleans Arena late Friday night, Paul gave Houston a long hug and they chatted amiably for a few minutes, promising to catch up later.
Ironically, Houston could one day be leading a Knicks management team that lures Paul to Broadway -- speculation that should increase in light of yesterday's front-page story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune the NBA will likely buy the franchise.
One of Houston's attributes is the respect current NBA players have for him. Houston's rise in the organization is also good news for Knicks fans fearing Isiah Thomas eventually will inherit Walsh's throne because of his relationship with owner James Dolan. Sources have told The Post Houston does not consider Thomas an ally.
In February, Houston is expected to be honored at the Garden when the Knicks hold their annual Legends Night and salute their Player of the Decade (2000-09). Houston is the clear choice and Stoudemire is the early frontrunner for the new decade.
The losing culture Thomas bred in New York, Houston believes, is history.
"I don't want to go too far ahead," Houston said. "We hit a stretch when we lose those consecutive games . . . They realized we can't accept it and have to do something about it. I will say they've grown up and established [that] we won't have that losing mentality and losing atmosphere."
Stoudemire hasn't done it alone, and Houston credited Raymond Felton. The Stoudemire-Felton oncourt connection grows by the minute, as does their stature in the locker room.
"When you look at what Raymond's done with his leadership, it's huge," Houston said.
"The biggest joy I have is how fans are excited again. When Knick fans say, "I remember when," a lot of them are much older. The young kids don't remember that time. The young generation will hopefully continue to experience this."
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