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Thursday, November 8, 2012
Woodson: STAT is 'a big piece of the puzzle'

By Ian Begley

New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson isn't sure what he's going to do with Amar'e Stoudemire.

Stoudemire is out for the next 5-7 weeks following knee surgery to repair his injured left knee.

When Stoudemire returns, many wonder whether he'll do so off the bench or as a starter for the currently undefeated Knicks (3-0).

During an interview on "Stephen A. Smith & Ryan Ruocco" on ESPN New York 98.7 FM on Thursday, Woodson said Stoudemire would be a part of the rotation and isn't likely to lose his starting spot. But he did not say definitively that Stoudemire would return to the starting lineup.

"I can't make that decision right now. My thing is you don't lose your starting job based on injuries," Woodson said. "He will come back into our lineup, and that may be the case. Again, only time will tell. We have to see where he is when he gets back. And we've got to make sure he's healthy enough to do the things that we've asked him to do on and off the floor."

There are several benefits to bringing Stoudemire off of the bench:

1. Separating Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony could be beneficial for the Knicks. The Stoudemire-Anthony duo hasn't been as effective as most had expected in Anthony's first 18 months in New York. The Knicks are under .500 in games both Stoudemire and Anthony are in the starting lineup. Both players seem to operate best in the same space (mid post to the elbow). Anthony thrives in isolation and Stoudemire is at his best in a more wide-open attack.

2. Stoudemire should have more opportunities in the pick and roll coming off the bench. As a starter, Stoudemire often was not the primary screener on the pick and roll because that role belonged to Tyson Chandler because Chandler is not a threat to knock down a jumper. But if Stoudemire is on the floor and Chandler's on the bench, it would allow Stoudemire to be the screener on the pick and roll, a role that he thrived in with Steve Nash in Phoenix and Raymond Felton in New York. Stoudemire could also have more opportunities in the post when he's not on the floor with Chandler

"Amare, make no mistake about it, is a big piece of our puzzle," Woodson said.

Stoudemire will be out until at least December 12, according to the Knicks' timetable, which means he'd miss at least the team's first 21 games. The team is off to a 3-0 start for the first time since the 1999-2000 season. They'll have a chance to start 4-0 for the first time since 1993-1994 when they take on the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night.