This off-season’s NBA free agency has got the entire sports world buzzing, with Lebron James leading the way. But while fans anticipate King James’ decision, Amar’e Stoudemire got the jumpstart by becoming the first major player to switch teams.

The longtime Phoenix Suns’ forward announced this weekend that he’s agreed to a five-year deal worth about $100 million with the New York Knicks … and now, he’s saying “The Knicks are back!”

“I feel great about being a pioneer and showing my leadership,” he said at Madison Square Garden, where he was welcomed with signs showing the player pictured in a Knicks uniform and reading “Welcome, Amare Stoudemire.”

“Totally comfortable, totally confident that my leadership qualities will uplift all of us to do something great this upcoming season,” Stoudemire told of the deal. “So again, the Knicks are back.”

The longtime Suns star met with Knicks owner James Dolan on Monday (July 5) to finalize the terms. His agent, Happy Walters, says the deal is for the maximum allowed.

However, the actual deal can’t be signed until July 8.

Stoudemire joins a Knicks team that has struggled for the past few seasons and went 29-53 last season. He averaged 23 points and nine rebounds, but the Knicks’ David Lee put up similar numbers last seasons as well.

Amar’e, however, brings some star power back to New York, something they haven’t had since Patrick Ewing.

Knicks president Donnie Walsh said that with the addition of Stoudemire, it isn’t the end for David Lee necessarily despite playing the same position. Lee could also be used in a sign-and-trade, but Walsh says he’s yet to receive any good offers.

Stoudemire said he hopes by making the first big free agent move that he can bring a few guys to help him bring the Knicks back to being the contender they once were.

“No one wanted to make the first move and I feel confident enough to take that first step and hopefully now we can bring a few guys in to join me,” Stoudemire said.

The deal also reunites him with current Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni, with whom Stoudemire spent his entire career with in Phoenix when he coached the team before moving to New York in 2008.

Who’s next to move? Let us know your thoughts.


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