Amar’e Stoudemire returned to game action for the first time since the playoffs last season and declared himself ready to play the season-opener Wednesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks.
“I feel great. I feel strong. I feel no soreness after the game, so I’m sure we’ll be ready to go for Wednesday,” the Knicks’ $100 million man said after putting up 6 points on 3-of-4 shooting in 12 minutes in the Knicks’ 85-83 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats.
When he left the game in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Kenyon Martin, the fans at the renovated Garden applauded.
For a guy who’s had three knee surgeries in the last 10 months — including one this past summer — Stoudemire looked pretty spry.
At one point in the first half, he spun around Cody Zeller and put in a lay-up with his back to the basket. A younger Stoudemire would’ve dunked it, but this isn’t the Amar’e of 10 — or even 5 — years ago.
Still, he says his “total body is much stronger than it was ever in my career. It was great to be strong out there.”
Knicks coach Mike Woodson said he plans to play Stoudemire mostly in the low post, and must figure out how to allocate bench minutes between Stoudemire and Martin. Woodson has said neither man will play both ends of a back-to-back.
“I thought STAT showed some positive minutes,” Woodson said. “I gotta figure out how I’m going to utilize Kenyon and STAT in terms of minutes.”
Carmelo Anthony, who missed a potential game-tying 20-footer in the final seconds, was impressed with what he saw from Stoudemire.
“I was very impressed about what Amar’e was able to do out there on the court,” said Anthony, who shot a miserable 4-for-17 for 13 points. “Due to his knees and surgeries and things that he’s been through, I was very impressed.”
Stoudemire talked at media day about hoping to “prolong” his career by limiting his minutes. But if nothing else, this was a positive start to his season.
“As the season goes along,” he said, “I’ll get better and better.”
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.