Amar'e willing to come off bench if needed
New York Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire says he is open to playing any role that helps the team win, including coming off the bench.
"You guys know me, ever since I've been here I've been all about winning and been a total team player," Stoudemire said Tuesday after practicing for the first time since he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Nov. 1. "Whatever it takes to win, that's the goal."
Knicks coach Mike Woodson did not disclose his plans for Stoudemire. He said he wanted to wait until Stoudemire was closer to returning to the court.
Both Woodson and Stoudemire did not offer any specifics on a potential return date for Stoudemire, who reported soreness in his left knee after practice but said it was nothing out of the ordinary.
Woodson did not rule out the possibility that Stoudemire could return this weekend, but added he would not rush Stoudemire back and play him at less than 100 percent. The Knicks play the Bulls at home Friday and the Timberwolves at home Sunday. But Stoudemire also did not guarantee that he'd return in time for the Knicks' Christmas Day game against the Lakers.
"I don't have a date in my mind when I'm going to return," Stoudemire said. "I just want to keep improving."
Stoudemire is expected to practice Thursday with the Knicks' NBA D-League team, the Erie BayHawks.
He is scrimmaging with the BayHawks because Woodson doesn't wish to hold a full practice with the Knicks, due to their condensed schedule.
Stoudemire's role has become a topic of debate among NBA observers and fans because it is unclear where he fits best for the Knicks, who are off to an 18-6 start and sit atop the Eastern Conference.
Some say Stoudemire would be most effective off the bench because he and Carmelo Anthony have had a tough time establishing chemistry on offense at different points in Anthony's tenure with the Knicks. New York has a losing record (30-33 in the regular season) when both Stoudemire and Anthony are in the starting lineup.
Woodson has said he expects the Anthony-Stoudemire dynamic to work, pointing to the Knicks' 8-2 record with Stoudemire and Anthony in the starting lineup since he took over last March.
"Our team was pretty good last season and we've been pretty good this season so I don't see Amar'e being a problem and disrupting what we do," Woodson said. "... It just makes us a deeper team. That's kind of how I look at it."
If Stoudemire came off the bench, though, it would free him up to be the primary screener on the Knicks' pick and roll, a role in which he's thrived in the past. If Stoudemire were in the starting lineup, he would not fill that role because it's one that starting center Tyson Chandler fills, and fills well.
"It doesn't matter. Whatever it takes to win. I'm totally open to it," Stoudemire said when asked about how he can best help the Knicks. "I've been here for three years now, you guys should know how much of a team player I am. I've played with a team in Phoenix that ... was a team-oriented game and the same applies here in New York."
Stoudemire, who has started every game he has played in a Knicks uniform, added: "I don't think nothing's going to change much (in terms of his role). Coach Woodson and the staff know my game and know what I've been working on this summer. They've been watching my progress since they've been on the coaching staff. It's up to those guys to figure out the best fit."
In other injury news, Anthony said he will be a game-time decision for the Knicks-Nets game Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
Anthony has missed the Knicks' past two games because of lingering discomfort in his sprained left ankle. The Knicks star is proceeding with caution with his ankle and made it sound as if he's leaning toward sitting out against the Nets.
"Of course I want to play," Stoudemire said. "But if I'm not able to go out there and be the player I can be and help my team then I'm not going to step foot on the court."
Anthony ran lightly Tuesday and said afterward that his ankle is still sore and "badly bruised." He added that he will not return until he is 100 percent healthy.
Anthony plans to rehab at the team's training facility later Tuesday and on Wednesday.
The Knicks' star has missed four games this season. The team is 2-2 in his absence.
When Anthony was sidelined earlier due to a laceration of his left middle finger, the Knicks beat the Heat on the road by 20 and lost to the Bulls. In Anthony's most recent absence, the Knicks beat the Cavs on Saturday but lost to Jeremy Lin and the Rockets on Monday.
Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.
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