Yet with his froncourt depleted by injuries to Tyson Chandler (leg) and Kenyon Martin (abdominal strain), Mike Woodson is rolling the dice and using a heavy dose of Stoudemire during this busy month of games.
Stoudemire played for the fourth time in five nights in Saturday’s 111-106 win over the Atlanta Hawks and finished with nine points and five rebounds in 19+ minutes.
“I didn’t really think he was going to play and then I got word that he was going to play,” Woodson said. “After speaking to the medical staff, before we tipped it up, I knew I was going to keep him to about 20 minutes and that was coming from me. It wasn’t coming from Amar’e.”
Woodson was asked before the game if the Knicks were 15-5 instead of 6-16, would he have played Stoudemire in this situation, given his injury history.
“Probably not,” he said. “That’s a good question. I don’t know. But if he tells me he can go, I’m not forcing the issue.”
In his last five games dating to the 41-point blowout loss at home to the Celtics, Stoudemire has played 21, 27, 30, 30 and 19 minutes.
That’s a far cry from the 10-15 minutes he was playing early in the season.
“We’ve taken baby steps to get him to this point,” Woodson said. “We’ve got to be careful.”
Stoudemire has had his moments for sure. He hit a huge jumper late on Wednesday when the Knicks held on to beat the Chicago Bulls, 83-76. He had gone for double-figures in scoring in four straight games before Saturday.
Martin is “going to be out a little bit,” Woodson said before the game, adding that there was no timeframe on his return.
Chandler is nearing a return sometime this month, which should help the team’s defense immensely.
And so in the meantime, the Knicks are rolling the dice and going with a heavy dose of Amar’e, hoping that disaster doesn’t strike again.
Adam Zagoria covers the New York Knicks and Big East hoops for NBA.com and SNY.tv. He also appears as a Big East Basketball Insider on SNY and 1050 ESPN Radio. You can follow him on Twitter and read his blog.