The Knicks will get one of their team's hypothetical centerpieces back in Amar'e Stoudemire, as the six-time All-Star will return to the lineup for the first time in over two months and play a smattering of minutes off the bench.
The 30-year-old big man played four-on-four full-contact Thursday, will play five-on-five Friday, and will be ready to play Saturday in a series that's tied 1-1. Woodson says he'll play about 10-15 minutes off the bench, which would be his lowest minute total of the season.
Stoudemire sat for the first two months of the year with a left knee debridement. He'd play from the turn of the new year through early March, averaging 14.2 points and 5.0 boards in 23.5 minutes per game. However, he needed the exact same procedure in the other knee and hasn't played since March 7.
Although Stoudemire is obviously an incredibly talented scoring big man, there's reason for concern with his return. In the 29 games he played this season, the Knicks were 19-13. In the rest of their games, they were 35-15, including a 17-6 stretch after his injury. Stoudemire has never fully figured out how to co-exist on court with Carmelo Anthony in the two and a half years they've spent as teammates, in part due to injuries, and in part due to contrasting playing styles.
And his play could bottle up the flow of the offense. The Knicks have been most successful with Anthony at power forward, alongside two point guards, a wingman and one big, either Tyson Chandler or Kenyon Martin. Stoudemire is most naturally suited for the power forward position.
In Stoudemire's minutes, the team could either pair him with Anthony at the four and no true center, something that would allow Roy Hibbert to score somewhat easily on Stoudemire. The Knicks could also play two bigs, which would be a better defensive matchup, but might be clogged on offense. That seems most likely:
For now, they'll likely experiment. As noted, Stoudemire will only play 15 minutes, so they'll have an opportunity to see what works before deploying it on a larger scale.