Former All Star forward, Amare Stoudemire is scheduled to return from right knee surgery on Saturday in game 3 against the Indiana Pacers. Stoudemire played in 29 games for the Knicks this season, averaging 14.2 points and 5 rebounds per game before being shut down on March 11th to have debris cleaned from his ailing right knee.
When asked by ESPN New York’s Ian O’Conner how much playing we should expect Amare to see in game 3, Mike Woodson did his best to temper expectaions for the Knicks big man, “I’m thinking somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes”.
Stoudemire needs to find a way to contribute against the Indiana Pacers if he intends to resurrect his image in this town and around the league, following back to back disastrous playoff runs the previous two season.
In 2011, after an inspiring performance in game 1, Stoudemire hurt his back attempting a trick dunk during warm ups prior to Game 2 of the Knicks-Celtics series in Boston. He contributed only 11 points over the next two games before the Knicks were ultimately swept in four.
Then came last year’s post season debacle when Stoudemire suffered a deep laceration to his left hand after punching a glass window covering a fire extinguisher on his way to the Knicks locker room following a tough Game 2 loss in Miami. He missed Game 3 and the Knicks were ultimately eliminated in five.
Stoudemire has been widely forgiven for his playoff mishaps over recent years, but he still needs to contribute something to this team if he is going to remind people of the offensive force he is capable of being for this club.
The big question surrounding Amare’s return to the lineup is at who’s expense do his 10-15 minutes come? Even Stoudemire’s harshest critics would agree that based on what he showed during his 29 games this season he is still capable of operating at an elite offensive level.
In stretches where Carmelo Anthony is on the bench, Stoudemire could give the Knicks second unit a much needed scoring boost, something all Knicks fans would welcome.
The problem comes on the defensive end, where Amare is widely recognized to be one of the NBA’s worst defensive rotation players. If Stoudemire’s minutes are going to come at Kenyon Martin’s expense I believe Amare’s return would do more to hurt the Knicks than help them.
If head coach Mike Woodson can find a way to work Amare into the lineup without upsetting the Knicks defense balance then we just may be in for a pleasant surprise when Amare finally takes the floor in game 3.