The New York Knicks need an injection of Amar'e Stoudemire and they're getting it (per Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski) at just the right time, as the forward is set to return tonight against the Portland Trail Blazers.
It's at that point in the season where the grind of the schedule starts to burn. Carmelo Anthony is struggling to make it through games unscathed. It seems like every time he jumps, you just cross your fingers he lands.
Tyson Chandler has been playing 35 minutes a game over his last 10, and a Tyson Chandler minute isn't an ordinary minute. Each Chandler minute packs about 90 seconds of constant physical combat.
Rasheed Wallace is still out with a foot injury and Kurt Thomas is still 73 years old.
Amar'e just being out there will help preserve the bruised and beaten bodies of the Knicks' overworked rotation, but it's his skill set that will ultimately give the team the kick in the butt it needs.
The fact that Amar'e missed the first eight weeks might actually be a blessing in disguise. His arrival will give the team a fresh boost of energy and you can be sure the Garden will erupt the first time he gets off the bench and heads to the scorer's table for check-in.
With Stoudemire willing to accept a reduced role, it will give the Knicks an advantage that few teams can offer.
When most coaches rest their starters at the beginning of the second quarter, the Knicks' second unit will consist of J.R. Smith and Amar'e Stoudemire. Sprinkle in a sharpshooter like Steve Novak, a pick-and-roll maestro in Pablo Prigioni, an emerging scorer in Chris Copeland and a slew of veteran defenders, and New York should be able to apply pressure for 48 straight minutes.
While J.R. Smith has been playing the role of second scoring option, the team will be much better off with Smith and Stoudemire sharing those duties. Smith's inconsistencies leave the team vulnerable to cold streaks offensively, especially when Carmelo is injured or on the bench.
The Knicks could also use Stoudemire's athleticism up front to help bolster the under-the-rim trio of Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace.
Whether or not Amar'e and Carmelo can work together won't be determined until after the season, but there's nothing but optimism amongst the team.
We've seen Stoudemire come back after knee injuries before and still conduct electricity as a finisher above the rim.
Don't think about it like the Knicks are getting back an old, washed up Amar'e. Think about it like he's arriving fashionably late to one of the best parties around the league.