The Knicks had just won their fourth straight game, a shockingly lopsided pulverizing of the Sacrificial — rather, Sacramento — Kings and Jason Kidd was heading from the locker room.

"You don't need me," Kidd told reporters. "The bench scored 80 points.

Actually, the bench scored 82 points — an all-time Knicks record.

"I feel like we've got the best bench in basketball," Tyson Chandler said. "Obviously, you can have some arguments in some places, but I really feel like when it comes down to it, people will see it come playoffs and down the stretch. Our bench is very deep, especially putting Amar'e [Stoudemire] in the lineup. I don't think there's any better than that."

Recently, there hasn't been. The Knicks have the sixth most productive bench in the league, averaging 39.2 points, almost 10 points better than the 29.6 points per game opposing reserves score against them (that 29.6 is the league's fourth lowest total). But in the last seven games, none can dispute Chandler's claim.

"We said from the start of the year that we think we have a pretty good bench and it helps us [when] other guys are nicked up and take time off," Steve Novak said. "Other guys step up and now with some guys nicked up other guys come in and knock down shots and play well."

Look at recent events. In the last seven games, the Knicks have gone 5-2 and hold a huge 313-129 lead in bench points, a 44.7-25.3 average, with the 44.7 a league best. It hasn't hurt having Stoudemire back. He has scored in double figures in nine straight games, including a season-best 21 in the 120-81 destruction of the Kings, when he shot 10-of-10.

"A lot of stars, it would be hard for a lot of us to accept the role of coming off the bench," Stoudemire said. "But for myself, it's simply about winning."

Add in the likes of 3-point specialist Novak and J.R. Smith, who is a 20-point game waiting to happen, and the Knicks don't hurt for production. The return of Iman Shumpert as a starter — along with the return of Stoudemire — has lengthened the rotation so the Knicks can withstand the numbers and production lost to the injuries sustained by Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby.