Amar’e Practices With Knicks D-League Team, No Return Date Set

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Amar’e Stoudemire practiced for the first time this season Tuesday and he did so with the Knicks’ D-League team, the Erie Bayhawks.

Stoudemire will practice again Thursday with the Knicks and the team will go forward from there with a decision on his next step. There is no firm date for his return to game action.

“I felt good,” said Stoudemire, who underwent a knee debridement procedure in October that has kept him out as the Knicks started the season 18-6. “I was finally able to get out there and really play some type of scrimmage to a full practice. It was great.”

Knicks coach Mike Woodson said Monday that it was possible Stoudemire could debut this Friday or Sunday. But Woodson added Tuesday that everything depends on how he feels after Thursday’s practice.

“Then we’ll see where we are,” Woodson said. “Again it’s all based on his knee and his physical condition. I’m not rushing him, either. He’s patiently gone through the surgery and has sat and gone through rehab. Why rush him? If he says he’s sore and it’s not quite ready, then we gotta be patient and open-minded for Amar’e until he’s almost at 100 percent and ready to play.”

Stoudemire said he has no specific return date in mind and dismissed reports that the Christmas Day game at the Lakers was his target date.

“I don’t know where everyone got that assumption that I’d be back Christmas Day,” Stoudemire said. “I never made that statement at all. I’m not totally sure if I’ll be back by then or not.”

Some have suggested that it would be best for the Knicks if Stoudemire came off the bench as the sixth man when he does return. He said he wasn’t expecting that to happen, but will do whatever is asked of him.

“It doesnt matter,” he said. “Whatever it takes to win. I’m totally open to it. 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 stricly about — it was a team-oriented game and the same applies here in New York.”

Said Woodson: “I’m not going to address it until he tells me he’s ready to play and then we’ll make a decision based on where we are with our team.”

In Stoudemire’s absence, the Knicks have become Carmelo Anthony’s team. He is the second-leading scorer in the NBA, an early MVP candidate and the Knicks have the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Anthony will likely return from an ankle sprain before Stoudemire debuts, although Anthony said it would be a gametime decision as to whether he plays Wednesday against Brooklyn.

Still, when the two stars do eventually suit up, it will revive all the questions about whether or not they can coexist and help the Knicks win.

When they have been in the starting lineup together, the Knicks have a record of 31-40, including a 1-7 record in the postseason. Yet the Knicks are 8-2 with Anthony and Stoudemire starting together under Woodson.

Asked if they can coexist, Stoudemire said, “Without a doubt. I have no doubt in my mind about that.”

Woodson also dismissed the concerns.

“See, I don’t look at it with Amar’e and Melo’s record,” Woodson said. “I look at it as a team record. And 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. It’s just getting him back into thinking things. It just makes us a deeper team. That’s kind of how I look at it.”

The Knicks hope to get Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby (sore left feet) back at some point, and Iman Shumpert could return from an ACL injury in January.

“I mean it’s going to be interesting to see where we go once everybody is in place,” Woodson said. “But I’d like to get to that point.”

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