Amar'e (knee) inches closer to return

Amar'e Stoudemire says his knee is feeling better and he's making progress toward making his much anticipated return to the Knicks.

Both the Knicks and Stoudemire hope that he can be back for the Knicks' home game Tuesday against Portland.

Stoudemire is expected to take a big step toward making his return on Sunday when he practices with his teammates for the first time since undergoing a left knee debridement on Oct. 31.

But what about that Jan. 1 return?

"We’ve gotta see," Stoudemire told MSG's Tina Cervasio on Friday. "Once we get back to New York, (I'll) get re-evaluated by the doctors and see how everything goes. Hopefully, I’ll be ready to go by then. But it is a marathon, not a sprint, so we’ll see."

Stoudemire practiced twice last week with the Knicks' D League team -- the Erie BayHawks -- because Mike Woodson did not want the Knicks to practice due to a condensed schedule.

He reported having soreness after both practices. On Friday, he said his knee has improved since last week's sessions.

"It’s getting much better. It’s not where I want it to be right now but again, it’s making progress and it’s getting better as we go along. So, hopefully, it keeps improving," he said.

The power forward added that he's getting antsy about making a return.

"I can't wait," he said. "I’m anxious to go, but the training staff is taking precautionary measures by making sure I’m 100%. I have room to improve. I'm anxious to go, but they’re taking their time."

It will be interesting to see where Stoudemire fits into the Knicks rotation once he returns. Three league sources told ESPN New York that the Knicks want Stoudemire to come off the bench when he comes back. But injuries to Raymond Felton (fractured pinky) and Carmelo Anthony (hyper-extended left knee) may necessitate that Stoudemire returns as a starter.

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