LOS ANGELES -- Amar'e Stoudemire's back was still bothersome, but that didn't mean he was completely defenseless.
Just ask the 3-foot-something young girl who tried to grab his beaded bracelet last Saturday afternoon.
As the Knicks' forward stepped away from the Drew League action for an interview with SI.com, he felt one of the many nearby observers tugging on his right wrist. The nine-year veteran may still have been on the mend from the back problems that limited him in the first-round playoff series against Boston, but he was up for this assignment.
No one, he made clear, messes with his fashion.
"Don't touch, baby," Stoudemire said in a soft but stern tone. "It's off-limits. You can't touch all that."
Stoudemire will be back on the court soon enough. He has a rough timeline of two weeks set for his return and a plan for a player-led training camp already being put into place.
But anyone looking for him these days should start flipping through the pages of fashion magazines. Stoudemire is clearly determined to become the Giorgio Armani of the NBA.
He's collaborating with fashion designer Rachel Roy for her line of women's clothing that, according to the Los Angeles Times, is "lower-priced" and set to be sold at Macy's stores. He recently played dress-up with fellow athletes who were attending the ESPY Awards, picking out clothes for the likes of Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch and freestyle skier Sarah Burke while sporting pink pants, a gray dress shirt and a bow tie himself.
Stoudemire's business was already on the rise because of his move from Phoenix to New York last summer. More recently, he found a media avenue for his message by entering into a partnership with Big Lead Sports in which he'll try his hand at the online content game and be a regular contributor to Hoopshype.com and Hoopsworld.com. But in this lockout life in which so many players are trying to grow their one-man brands, the fashion component is a fascinating move.
Not everyone, however, is enamored of his fashion sense. As he graciously signed autographs and took pictures in the South Central neighborhood, the get-up that included a denim vest, black shirt, black beanie, Star of David necklace and skin-tight jeans wasn't working for one passer-by.
"I don't want no man's jeans to be tighter than mine," the woman said privately.
There's no locker room time being logged right now, so Stoudemire is avoiding the ribbings that his teammates would almost certainly dole out as a result of his, um, eclectic taste. They'll get their chance soon, though, as Stoudemire is in the process of planning the unofficial Knicks training camp that will take place at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., in September.
"As soon as I get cleared [medically], as soon as my back gets strong, I'm going to call all the guys and structure a training camp," he said. "I'll have them all meet at IMG, put them all in apartments, feed them breakfast and lunch -- they're on their own for dinner.
"My guys are waiting on me. They're texting me all the time, saying, 'When are we going to work out?' But I'm still kind of in neutral right now with the back injury."
Stoudemire will be in China later this month, touring with Nike and promoting other companies with which he is partnering. He isn't considering international offers to play in large part because of the back issue.
"I'm just going to rest," said Stoudemire, played only 18 minutes in Game 2 against the Celtics because of the back and averaged just 14.5 points on 38.2 percent shooting in the four games. "What's happening right now [with the injury and labor situation] is kind of a gift and a curse for me. I'm having a good time, but the curse is that I want to play so bad that I want to try to get something done [on the labor front]."
As for playing in China, former Knicks guard Stephon Marbury said recently that he didn't think Stoudemire or teammate Carmelo Anthony could handle the grind in the Far East. Stoudemire, not surprisingly, disagreed when told for the first time of Marbury's comments.
"I'm from the streets of [central Florida's] Polk County, man, so I grew up playing rough," Stoudemire said. "I don't think it's that bad over there. I think China is a rising country as far as basketball concerned."
NBA journeyman point guard/Drew League regular Marcus Banks was the unwitting object of hoops humor at the MIT Sloan Conference in March, when Rockets general manager Daryl Morey told an unflattering story about him in discussing the topic of players who never reached their potential.
Banks, the UNLV product who was Boston's No. 13 pick in 2003 when Morey was with the Celtics, had allegedly answered a question about his life aspirations in his predraft interview by saying that he wanted to be a male model. The comment quickly spread on the Internet via social media, and Banks -- the career reserve who has played with five teams in eight seasons -- called Morey not long after to voice his displeasure.
"I called him that same day," Banks said. "I don't even know where that would come from as far as me quitting basketball and going into modeling. First of all, I'm not that kind of guy. [Basketball] is first priority, second priority, third priority for me as far as what I'm going to do outside of my family. I never ever thought in my life that I wanted to be a model.
"I told him, 'I don't understand why you would say that.' I did a couple things as far as [getting] some incentives modeling suits -- Banana Republic, Polo -- stuff like that. But at the end of the day, it ended up in the magazine and that was that. There never was an interest of mine to pursue modeling."
Morey later apologized for the remark on his Twitter account, and Banks said the issue was resolved quickly.
"We squashed it," he said. "He probably worded [his comments] wrong. But at the end of the day, I'm the one that looks bad. We talked about it and it was absolutely nothing."
Banks, 29, was traded from Toronto to New Orleans last November but never played for the Hornets while stuck behind Chris Paul and Jarrett Jack. He is weighing his international options in lieu of the lockout and still sees plenty of basketball in his future.
"The sky is the limit," he said. "I've still at least got a good nine to 10 [years] in me, including the last four overseas. I just love basketball. It doesn't matter where I play, I just want to enjoy it and enjoy my family while I'm doing it."
When word spread last weekend that Josh Smith was going to make his Drew League debut, the Twitter-verse was flooded with predictions that the Hawks' power forward would dominate in the freewheeling, up-tempo setting.
But Smith became the latest NBA player to be stymied by the top-notch competition, consistently coming up short against double teams and even getting dunked on by Colorado State University-Pueblo guard Kris Lawrie. The Drew League MC had given the honor of "Worst Drew League Performance" to Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley and Nuggets guard J.R. Smith entering play, but Josh Smith -- who laughed off his struggles afterward -- might have made a late push for that honor. (Incidentally, Miami's LeBron James and Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant were deemed the best performers at the pro-am circuit.)
"It's good to be able to get some conditioning in and have some fun," Smith said. "I'm out [in Los Angeles] for the rest of the summer, working out at UCLA. This is my first time being [at the Drew League], and I'll be back."
Smith suited up for the "Kings of LA" team in this league, but is well aware that his NBA team might change when the lockout ends. According to Yahoo! Sports, the Hawks were gauging trade interest in Smith in June and are considering moving the seven-year veteran who has played his entire career in Atlanta.
Smith averaged 16.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks last season and has $25.6 million left on his contract in the next two seasons. And while the regular season came with the frustration of losing nine more games than the previous season, the fifth-seeded Hawks upset Orlando in the first round before falling to Chicago in six games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"My feeling is that I'm an Atlanta Hawk," Smith said. "I'll be an Atlanta Hawk until otherwise, until they trade me or something else. I don't know. We've been with each other for a long time. We've had some success together. You never want to leave somewhere where you know that each year you're getting better and it could be something that much more special next year.
"But you never know what's going to happen. I'm just here. I'm an Atlanta Hawk right now. All I can do is stay ready, stay in my lane and stay focused and worry about bettering myself."
Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried, the 22nd pick in the June draft, has generated buzz inside the Drew League's Leon H. Washington Park Gym with his acrobatics and nonstop physicality. And yet, after the flurry of absurd alley-oops (from teammates and to himself) and even a soaring block on the defensive end, his most jaw-dropping move might have been a missed dunk at the end of this clip.
Faried -- who started his own fitting hash tag on Twitter afterward of #ibounce -- nearly put his armpit above the rim in retrieving an errant alley-oop pass, and the place went wild. All of which is phenomenal news for the Nuggets, who could use an infusion of young talent in their frontcourt considering the looming free agency of center Nene and power forward Kenyon Martin.
Faried's 35-inch vertical leap at the predraft combine in May was nowhere near the top of his class, as Kansas' Josh Selby and Georgia Tech's Iman Shumpert led all prospects at 42 inches. Still, the high-level athleticism coupled with the motor that was even better than advertised look like the sorts of tools that could lead to an impactful rookie season.
"I'm going to push myself to be Rookie of the Year," the former Morehead State star said. "That's my goal. I think it's an attainable goal. ... We're going to rebuild and get better. Guys are going to push each other -- I'm going to push others even though I'm a rookie. I'll do my best and play my part."
As chronicled by ESPN.com, the one-on-one battle between Pistons forward Austin Daye and Long Beach State forward Edis Dervisevic on Saturday was riveting. They traded buckets and more than a few unfriendly barbs throughout the second half of a game won by Daye's team, with the packed house loving every minute of it.
Daye deserves credit for staying true to the words he spoke in mid-July.
"No one wants to be shown up by an NBA player, and no NBA player wants to be shown up by someone who's not in the NBA," he said then. "So when I get the ball, when I get a possession, I make it a point to show that's why I'm in the NBA."
Daye mostly did just that, but there were long stretches where the bigger Dervisevic -- who averaged 2.1 points and 2.2 rebounds last season -- had his way on offense. Anyone questioning the intensity level of these games or the NBA players who compete in them would have been convinced near the end of the third quarter, when Daye's coach took him out at the height of the mano-y-mano hype and heard an earful from the furious 23-year-old.
Denver rookie Jordan Hamilton didn't even wait until he had signed his first contract to change agents. The former Texas swingman, who can't sign his deal as the No. 26 pick until the lockout lifts, said Saturday that he had fired agent Arn Tellem recently and was looking for new representation. On Thursday, a source close to him said he has opted to go with Gregory Nunn, who recently opened the basketball division at Premier Sports.