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Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Amar'e Stoudemire returns, stats will come

Carmelo Anthony looked great in his return, while Amar'e Stoudemire looked rusty in his debut.

No surprises there.

After missing two games with a hyperextended left knee, Melo tied a season high by scoring 45 points against the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday. He was 14-for-24 from the floor -- including 5-of-11 from downtown -- in 41 minutes. Anthony, who has missed six of the New York Knicks' past 14 games due to three separate injuries, admitted afterward that he still isn't 100 percent, but then added that he hasn't been at 100 percent for a while.

Certainly it will be a while before Stoudemire, who had knee surgery in October, is completely healthy. In his season debut against the Blazers, he managed only six points (on 3-of-8 shooting), with one rebound. On the bright side, Amar'e did show some lift during his 17 minutes of action: All three of his made field goals were dunks, and he blocked a shot.

I assume most fantasy owners understand that Stoudemire isn't going to be the top-15 player he was with the Phoenix Suns. If your expectation is that he ultimately approaches his 2011-12 stats (17.5 points, 7.8 boards, 1.0 block and 0.8 steals), that seems realistic. From a fantasy perspective, I'm not worried about Stoudemire starting or not starting, or Stoudemire and Anthony coexisting. He'll play and they'll play together because that's what the Knicks need. Against the Blazers, only four Knicks logged more than 22 minutes: J.R. Smith, Tyson Chandler, Jason Kidd and Anthony. As long as Raymond Felton remains sidelined, this is a five-man team -- a veteran five-man team -- and Stoudemire, even as he works his way back, is the fifth man.

That said, fantasy owners will have to be patient. The Knicks will not immediately heap minutes on Stoudemire, and fortunately for this injury-depleted team, they'll get a break in the upcoming schedule. The Knicks have only 12 more games in January, and over a 10-day stretch from Jan. 14 to 24, they play just once. So give it at least three weeks before counting on Stoudemire to be a consistent fantasy contributor.

Looking Back

Ty Lawson (Achilles) sat out Tuesday against the Los Angeles Clippers. I'd say Lawson owners have reason for concern, because this is the same injury that prompted the Denver Nuggets to hold him out of the second half of their Dec. 22 rout of the Charlotte Bobcats. Lawson is set for an MRI on Wednesday. As of Tuesday, Andre Miller -- who had 12 points and 12 assists in his start against the Clips -- was rostered in only 20 percent of leagues. That's sure to change.

Eric Gordon's second game back didn't go as well as his first. He was just 5-of-17 from the floor in an 11-point outing against the Atlanta Hawks. Gordon's presence, though, does seem to open up the court for Ryan Anderson, who finished with 23 points and five treys.

Looking Ahead

Anderson Varejao (knee) returned to Cleveland Cavaliers practice on Monday, but because he was limited, it seems unlikely he'll play Wednesday when the Cavs host the Sacramento Kings. Figure on the Kings again being without Marcus Thornton (ankle) for this matchup.

George Hill (thigh) hopes to play for the Indiana Pacers, who host the Wizards. Hill's backup, D.J. Augustin, is coming off a 17-point, six-assist showing against the Memphis Grizzlies on Dec. 31.

Jameer Nelson (hip) is a game-time decision for the Orlando Magic, who host the Chicago Bulls.

Vince Carter is expected to make another start when the Mavs visit the Miami Heat. Only four NBA teams allow more 3-pointers than the defending champs, so this looks like a good matchup for VC. Carter came through with 23 points against the Wizards on Tuesday.