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At home in Miami and familiar with his new teammates, Amare Stoudemire has big hopes for Heat

By Tim Reynolds


MIAMI _ Amare Stoudemire spent some time with Dwyane Wade in New York this summer, sipping wine at a trendy hotspot and talking basketball.

He’s been texting and talking with Chris Bosh regularly. He’s considered himself close with Goran Dragic for years, going back to their time together with the Phoenix Suns.

Plus, he’s called Miami home for about seven years already.

So getting acclimated to being part of the Heat, that won’t be a big deal for the forward who will be entering his 14th NBA season _ and first with Miami _ when training camp opens in about a month. He knows many of his new teammates such as Wade, Bosh and Dragic. He knows the city, and most of all he thinks that he can rekindle the All-Star form he had not long ago.

“We can be a really good team,” Stoudemire said. “No one thought that the Golden State Warriors would be champions this time last year. We knew they’d be a really good team, but no one thought they’d be world champions. With us, we know we’re a really good team. No one thinks we can be world champions, but you never know.”

Stoudemire went back to school on Monday, appearing with some other members of the Heat staff at an elementary school in Fort Lauderdale on the first day of the new academic year in South Florida.

He posed for photos and helped hand out some school supplies to ecstatic kids in what essentially was his first public appearance for the team since signing a one-year, $1.5 million deal last month. He also had to introduce himself to a few students; one asked Stoudemire if he was Bosh.

“I just live life,” Stoudemire said.“ I try to enjoy it. I try to create positive energy when I can, I try to affect people in a positive way and just live life.”

For the kids, the new season of sorts started Monday.

For Stoudemire, while it won’t officially start for a few more weeks, prepping for 2015-16 in reality started long ago. He’s taking care of his body, but also said he believes that Heat President Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra have the right formula to both extend the careers of veteran players while also getting the best from them.

“From playing against Miami, the thing that you learn is that they always have a competitive spirit,” Stoudemire said. “There’s an aura around here that everyone works hard, that you have to be in top shape which is great because I want to be in the best shape of my life going into this season. I want to surprise the world and have a very, very productive year.”

Stoudemire, who turns 33 in November, averaged 11.5 points in 59 games for New York and Dallas last season. He said he feels like he’s not far removed from the 2010-11 season in which he averaged a 25.3 points per game _ the second-best clip of his career.

But he’s played in only 200 games (out of a possible 312) in the four years since, and still isn’t entirely certain what his role will be with the Heat.

“Just four years ago I was an MVP candidate and an All-Star,” Stoudemire said. “I feel like I can still get back to that All-Star level of play. If I can achieve that, then that’s going to help the team in its entirety. … I will accept whatever the role is.”

Stoudemire has faced the Heat as an opponent 29 times, none more infamous than the first-round playoff game when he was with the Knicks in 2012. Miami won 104-94 and Stoudemire smashed his hand on a metal fire-extinguisher casing on his way from the court to the locker room after the game, causing a deep cut that was tended to by paramedics on-site.

He was the butt of jokes from Heat fans for that one.

Now those same fans are hoping Stoudemire has plenty left to offer.

“Stay tuned,” Stoudemire said. “At this point, I don’t know what I’m going to bring. My goal is to become a better player than I was last year, expand on what I did last year. I have a lot of skill set left in this body and I want to show that.”

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