According to ESPN, Amar'e Stoudemire could return to action in time for Game 3. His return is based on how he performs in midweek scrimmages.
Stoudemire has been out for two months following a right-knee debridement. If Stoudemire can return to form quickly, he can still be a huge difference-maker for the Knicks.
When we last saw Stoudemire in action, he was playing dominant basketball for Mike Woodson. After volunteering to take a lesser role off the bench, Stoudemire played efficiently, averaging 14.2 points on 58 percent shooting from the field. That was good for the second-highest shooting percentage of his entire 11-year NBA career.
Stoudemire gave the Knicks a reliable low-post and pick-and-roll option. Looking at the way he played, it's hard to take issue with what Stoudemire brought to the table.
Most can accept that Stoudemire was productive in his 29 games this season. The issue that most people have is that the team only went 16-13 in the games he played. The general consensus is that STAT doesn't fit with the rest of the Knicks roster. People jumped on the chance to blame him for the team's shortcomings over that stretch.
Truthfully, the Knicks' .500 stretch had very little to do with Stoudemire. The ball wasn't moving and the offense was stagnant. That was more to do with injuries than anything else.
Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd both struggled with significant injuries when Stoudemire was in the lineup. Considering how important they are to the offense, it's not surprising that the team was lost without them.
There was no penetration, shooters weren't getting good looks and Carmelo Anthony—who played hurt on a number of those nights—had to initiate the offense a lot of the time.
With Felton and Kidd back at full strength, the Knicks went 5-2 in the final games before STAT's injury, where he played particularly well with three 20-point games over that period.
Unfortunately for Stoudemire, most people forgot about that when he went down. They focused more on the fantastic basketball the Knicks went on to play in his absence.
New York has proven that it's capable of winning at a high level without Amar'e. That doesn't mean his return can't help, especially against a great defensive team like the Pacers.
In the first-round series against the Boston Celtics, the Knicks offense was disappointing. They couldn't create good outside looks. They struggled when Melo and J.R. Smith didn't shoot well. Having Stoudemire would have given them a third option to turn to in that situation. His ability to collapse defenses in the pick-and-roll could have created space for shooters.
The Knicks have had a lot of success going with small lineups. But against a big, physical team like the Pacers, they'll need all the frontcourt help they can get.
Despite the injuries, Stoudemire is still a powerful presence. He can match up offensively with the likes of David West and Roy Hibbert.
Melo has the speed to beat them one-on-one; however, after an injury scare against the Celtics, playing him at the 4 for the entire series would be a risky option. We haven't seen it very often, but using Anthony as the ball-handler in the pick-and-roll with Amar'e has a lot of potential. Given any space, Melo will sink the mid-range jumper and can find Stoudemire rolling instead if the defense keys on him.
It's a play that directly utilizes the strengths of both players, one that in year three could make them the dynamic duo we hoped they would be from day one.
Stoudemire is only just returning from injury. The Knicks can't expect him to start or even play significant minutes. He isn't going to be a focal point for the Knicks, but off the bench he can add some size and offensive diversity.
Based on how New York and Indiana played each other in the regular season, this is going to be a long, hard-fought series. The games will be tight, and a productive STAT could be the difference for the Knicks.