NEW YORK -- The Knicks trotted out all the bells and whistles for Amar'e Stoudemire's Madison Square Garden debut.
Boxing ring announcer Michael Buffer introduced the players as the "new" New York Knicks before their home opener against the Portland Trail Blazers. Spike Lee, Woody Allen, Michael J. Fox and Russell Simmons were all in the house to watch Stoudemire, who signed a five-year, $100-million deal in the offseason and promised the crowd a new era of Knicks basketball.
"It was definitely electrifying," Portland center Marcus Camby said after the unbeaten Blazers beat the Knicks in a 100-95 victory. "I think Amar'e has brought a lot of excitement to the city and they're adapting to [head coach Mike] D'Antoni's style. And I feel that this is a better product out there than they threw together the last couple years. I expect this team to do great things this year."
In the end, though, it was Camby, the 36-year-old former Knick, who helped spoil Stoudemire's first game as a Knick at MSG. As Stoudemire drove to the basket for a potential game-tying basket with 6.5 seconds remaining, Camby knocked the ball out of his hands, sending it out of bounds. The officials initially awarded possession to New York, but then overturned it and gave the ball to Portland.
"Went off his leg," Camby said with a broad smile in Portland's locker room. "It's a good thing for instant replay, right? That was great."
Said Stoudemire, who finished with 18 points on 8-of-17 shooting: "I thought there was contact on the initial drive, but they let him get away with that sometimes, and then he stripped the ball."
Camby is familiar with Stoudemire's tendencies. The Blazers lost to Stoudemire and the Phoenix Suns in the first round of last year's NBA playoffs.
"I pretty much know what he's going to do," said Camby, who finished with two points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks. "Watched a lot of film on him. Just tried to make him make some tough shots."
Still, Camby said Stoudemire was "right up there with the best" in terms of big men who can create their own shot.
"He's a tremendous talent, probably one of the better young bigs that we have in this league, outside of Dwight Howard," Camby said.
While Stoudemire was signed to bring the Knicks back to the playoffs for the first time since 2004, Camby represents the last successful Knicks era, having been a key member of the team that reached the 1999 NBA Finals.
"It is an eternity," he said. "When I look around, it's only me and Kurt Thomas left on that team [in the NBA]."
The Knicks dealt Camby for Antonio McDyess in 2002, but McDyess reinjured is knee in an exhibition game against Phoenix in October 2002 and never panned out for the Knicks.
"They thought they were getting a good player in McDyess and that didn't pan out," Camby said. "And actually, that trade brought a lot of great things to Denver ... myself, Nene, and we drafted Carmelo [Anthony]. You saw the Nuggets franchise turned around. It didn't turn around for here in New York, but it definitely turned around for us out in Denver."
As the Knicks dream of prying Anthony loose from the Nuggets and bringing him home to New York, Camby carries on. He maintains a home in Houston after selling his former Rye, N.Y., home to Bernie Williams. The former UMass star comes home to Hartford, Conn., often to see his mother. There was even talk of the Knicks bringing Camby back this season before he signed a two-year extension with Portland in April.
"New York is still home to me," Camby said. "Every time I come back and walk around the city, it's like I never left. People always wishing me that they never traded me, along with [Latrell] Sprewell. Everybody remembering the glory years of myself, Patrick [Ewing] and Allan Houston and stuff like that.
"It would've been great, but now I think my situation is a no-brainer, staying out there in Portland," Camby added. "They needed a big man and I'm getting an opportunity to play, surrounded by great players in LaMarcus [Aldridge] and Brandon [Roy]."
On a night when the Knicks were meant to usher in the Stoudemire Era, Camby only made fans think about the success of a bygone one.