Whether he comes off the bench or starts, Amar'e Stoudemire will be an integral piece for the Knicks this season, according to Mike Woodson.
"My thing is this: Amar'e is a big piece of this puzzle, without a doubt,” Woodson said Wednesday in an interview on ESPN New York 98.7 FM's "Stephen A. Smith & Ryan Ruocco." "He’s a very talented player. And my whole thing is we are anxiously waiting for Amar'e to come back."
Stoudemire is expected to miss at least the first six weeks of the season after undergoing knee surgery on Oct. 31.
When he returns, it’s unclear if he will do so as a starter or a member of the Knicks’ second unit.
Woodson has been non-committal on that subject. According to reports, he said on Tuesday that he would "address that when we get to that point (that Stoudemire returns). Right now, I’m just taking it a day at a time and work the guys we have in uniform."
In the past, Woodson has said that none of his players would lose their starting spot due to injury, leading some to believe that Stoudemire will return to the Knicks' starting five.
On Wednesday, Woodson told Smith and Ryan Ruocco that he considers bench players just as vital to the team's success as the starters.
"The bench guys are just as important as the guys who start, in my philosophy," Woodson said. "I’ve always felt that way. And I try to utilize them that way. And if they’re rolling coming off the bench, they’re going to stay in the game until things go sour. My thing is if you’re committed and you’re about team, it shouldn’t matter. That’s the first thing that I said to these guys when we opened up camp -- think team and think win. Other than that, you’re in it for the wrong reasons."
Many have wondered about Stoudemire’s status because it seems to make so much sense to bring him off the bench.
Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony have struggled to develop cohesion on offense during Anthony’s 18-month tenure with the Knicks. New York actually has a losing record when both Stoudemire and Anthony are in the lineup.
The 8-1 Knicks are off to a strong start with Anthony playing power forward, which is Stoudemire’s position.
Stoudemire could benefit from coming off of the bench because it would keep him off the floor with Anthony and Tyson Chandler.
With Chandler off the floor, Stoudemire could serve as the Knicks’ primary screener on the pick and roll, a role he's thrived in throughout his career.
Regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench, Woodson believes Stoudemire (along with injured guard Iman Shumpert) can add great depth to a Knicks team that already boasts a strong second unit.
"When you add Amar’e back to the mix and you put (Shumpert) back into the mix, we’re a really deep team that can do a lot of things on both sides of the ball,” Woodson said. "So my thing is this: I’m not going to even address that in terms of Amare (starting or coming off of the bench). But I will say this: he’s a big piece of the puzzle in terms of being able to help us go all the way."