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Amare Stoudemire looking strong

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LAS VEGAS — Amare Stoudemire is making the U.S. national team's selection process even more difficult than the coaches already expected.

The Phoenix Suns star finished six lively days of practice with the American club Monday, playing at full speed in an intense full-court scrimmage with his teammates.

That wouldn't be remarkable — except Stoudemire had surgery on both knees during last season, and he didn't appear ready for international competition as recently as last week during Phoenix's summer-league sessions in Las Vegas.

But Stoudemire's confidence and conditioning have grown with each day in the U.S. camp, and coach Mike Krzyzewski's staff — including Mike D'Antoni, his coach in Phoenix — must decide whether he'll be able to help the American squad at the world championships in Japan next month.

"I think my chances are great," Stoudemire said. "I've been improving each practice, working hard and getting in shape."

Stoudemire played in just three games for the Suns last year after preseason microfracture surgery on his left knee. After that brief return in April, the club shut him down again — but the wear and tear forced the 2003 NBA rookie of the year to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.

So Stoudemire launched into an aggressive offseason rehab program — in between sessions at his basketball camp, Spanish lessons and the impending birth of his second child. He reported to U.S. camp last week in better condition than Krzyzewski imagined, and he feels extra strength every day.

"I'm getting better," he said. "It's pretty hard to put it into percentage form. Right now, I'm a little above 70 (percent), and hopefully I can get to 100 pretty soon."

After Monday's practice and scrimmage, Stoudemire stayed on the court for extra shooting drills with Phoenix assistants Marc Iavaroni and Alvin Gentry.

At full strength, Stoudemire could be a valuable addition to Krzyzewski's roster — perhaps even an ideal center for the international game.