Amare Stoudemire was making his season debut and Carmelo Anthony was back in the starting lineup for the New York Knicks against Portland.
Stoudemire came off the bench as he plays his way back into shape following left knee surgery Oct. 31. Both Stoudemire and coach Mike Woodson said the forward’s minutes would be limited in Tuesday night’s game.
“It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been so ready to play, I put in so much hard work this offseason and then to have to sit out for the first half of this season, but now to be back, I’m so ready to go,” Stoudemire said. “I’m ready to provide whatever my team needs to improve, so that’s what I’m here for.”
Anthony missed two games with a hyperextended left knee, an injury that occurred in the Knicks’ loss to the Lakers on Christmas. The Knicks are still without point guard Raymond Felton because of a broken right pinky, and Rasheed Wallace remains out with a sore left foot.
That makes Stoudemire’s return even more important for the Knicks, though it was unclear how much he would play. Woodson would only say it would be less than 30 minutes. Stoudemire said he wasn’t worried about warming up and then going back to the bench at the start, though Woodson said it was something to monitor.
“That’s always a concern, but again, it’s what we’re faced with,” Woodson said. “That’s why big minutes at the early stage of him going through this process won’t be to his advantage, so we’ve just got to slowly work him back in.”
Woodson said he wasn’t sure who he wanted Stoudemire to play with, or whether the reserve role would remain permanent.
“I’m not going to discuss that. I mean, first things first. We’ve got to get him back on the floor and get him acclimated to what we’re doing, and then we’ll go from there,” Woodson said.
With Stoudemire sidelined, Anthony has slid into his power forward spot and flourished, averaging 28.5 points in leading the Knicks to a 21-9 start. The Knicks have had little success with the two stars playing together, and Woodson could try to avoid that problem by splitting them as much as possible.
However, he has said the Knicks need to have both on the floor to truly contend for an NBA title. He sent Stoudemire to work on his low-post skills this summer, hoping that could become a bigger part of his game.
Stoudemire hardly got to use what he learned, appearing in just one preseason game before having the surgery to clean up loose tissue in his knee. He practiced with the Knicks twice since they returned from their Western trip and decided now was the time to play, even while not yet feeling 100 percent.
“To get back out there now will be great for me to really get my feet wet and see how it goes,” Stoudemire said.
Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio will not travel with the team for a two-game road trip to Utah and Denver this week because of back spasms.
Rubio missed the game against Phoenix on Saturday after being unable to get his back loosened up. Coach Rick Adelman says the team is just being cautious with Rubio, who is coming back from a torn ACL in his left knee. Rubio has played in five games this season after making his debut in the middle of last month.
Adelman thinks some of Rubio’s back issues could be caused by him overcompensating for a knee that has not yet gotten back to full strength. Rubio hopes to be ready to play at home on Saturday against Portland.
Denver Nuggets guard Ty Lawson was ruled out of Tuesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers because of a left Achilles’ tendon strain.
Lawson started each of the Nuggets’ previous 32 games. The team said he has been bothered by tightness in the Achilles’ tendon for the past week. He left the Nuggets’ 81-72 at Memphis on Saturday early when he aggravated the injury.