I’m not going to sit here and attempt to explain the intricacies of re-integrating him into the lineup and how it will only help the Knicks—I’ve already done that. What I will sit here and gladly admit to you is that New York is battered.
When the Knicks suited up to play the Phoenix Suns Wednesday night, they were without Carmelo Anthony (knee) and Raymond Felton (finger). Not only are those two valued starters, but the team was already without Rasheed Wallace (foot), Iman Shumpert (knee) and, you guessed it, Stoudemire (knee).
That said, while Anthony, Felton and Wallace’s injuries have rendered them day-to-day, the Knicks can find some solace in knowing that Stoudemire is very close to making his return.
According to Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com, Stoudemire is aiming for a New Year’s Day return:
Could Amar’e Stoudemire make his season debut with the Knicks on January 1?
In an interview with ESPN’s Heather Cox on Tuesday, Stoudemire acknowledged that the Blazers game on Jan. 1 could be a target for his return, if his rehabilitation continues without impediment.
The Knicks had hoped Stoudemire would return sometime during their three-game road trip from Dec. 25-28.
But that appears unlikely.
Mike Woodson would prefer Stoudemire to have some practice time with his teammates. Last week, Stoudemire practiced with the Knicks’ D League team, the Erie BayHawks, because the Knicks did not hold practice due to a condensed schedule.
The Knicks have the opportunity to practice on Sunday and Monday prior to Tuesday’s game against Portland.
When Cox asked Stoudemire about Jan. 1 during the Knicks-Lakers Christmas Day game, the star forward said it ‘would be a target game’, assuming he suffers no setbacks in his rehab.
Believe it or not, such ambiguity is actually the most iron-clad sense of certainty the Knicks have right now. No one knows how long it will take ‘Melo and Felton to recover. The same can be said for Wallace. And as for Shumpert, the timetable surrounding his return is about as clear as dishwater.
Which is why New York needs Stoudemire. He provides them with a proven, albeit fragile, scorer who can help carry the team when numerous key players go down. And by “numerous,” I mean NUMEROUS. Including Stoudemire and Shumpert, one could make the case that the Knicks are missing four starters right now, and that’s a monstrous burden to carry.
Stoudemire’s return, whether it be in the starting lineup or off the pine, helps alleviate such a burden. He gives New York some much needed depth at time when it is operating on wafer thin ice with an even thinner rotation.
Yes, this is something we obviously expected from the Knicks this year. Boasting the likes of the oldest team in NBA history didn’t exactly speak volumes from a durability standpoint. And yet, the degree to which injuries have occurred in New York is mind-blowing, and extremely damaging to the torrid pace they have played at thus far.
Stoudemire’s re-integration changes all of that, though. It’s easy for us to look at him as an overpaid star who isn’t worth a lick at this point, but we must remember that he’s a six-time All-Star, someone who has carried the Knicks in the past.
As well as someone who may need to carry them again should the Knicks continue to suffer injuries at such a staggering pace.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.