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But Boozer believes things are looking up.

“It’s still growing, which is exciting,” he said. “To be where we are, to be trying to get better _ it’s an exciting time to be a Chicago Bull because we’re improving while we’re winning.”

New York has suffered through nine straight losing seasons and looked destined for another during a 3-8 start. The Knicks have since won 13 of 15. Now, even after being spurned by James, New York is thinking about the postseason.

“The Knicks have not had a playoff team for a long time, and we needed a complete change,” Knicks president Donnie Walsh said. “It’s not that there weren’t good players here, it’s that they didn’t fit together.”

Felton and Stoudemire fit together in coach Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo style. Stoudemire ranks second in the league with 26.7 points per game. Felton, who was a restricted free agent point guard, is averaging 18.7 points and 8.9 assists.

“They were two very good players, and they are spearheading what we’re doing right now,” Walsh said. “The other moves that we made allowed us to round out our team in the right way. We still have work to do, but we have now got all positions. We can match up with most teams.”

Stoudemire has scored 30 or more points in nine consecutive games.

“We have advantages with Amare, particularly because he’s a very difficult guy to guard,” Walsh said. “We haven’t had anybody like that with the New York Knicks since Patrick Ewing.”

Indiana has missed the playoffs the past four seasons, and has reached postseason play just once since Reggie Miller retired. But the team has a swagger that had been missing in recent years.

The additions of Collison and Posey filled key voids.

Collison gives the Pacers a playmaker who passes first and bothers opposing point guards with his speed and quickness. He learned as a rookie last season under Chris Paul in New Orleans, then stepped in and took advantage when Paul missed a significant part of the season with an injury. So far, Collison is averaging 13.5 points and 4.1 assists for Indiana.

“He’s a young point guard, so he’s still learning the ropes,” Granger said. “But his athleticism at that position is something we haven’t had in a while, so it helps us tremendously.”

Posey has been steady with his good perimeter shooting and defense. He is averaging 6.1 points in 20 minutes per game.

“I like what I’ve seen of the Pacers,” Walsh, the former Pacers CEO, said. “I think getting Collison really puts the finishing touches on them. I think the improvement of Hibbert and the emergence of Danny Granger as an elite player _ those are good pieces to have.”

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant sees the potential in the Pacers.

Story Continues →