Amare Stoudemire close to return

Updated: April 20, 2012, 8:23 AM ET
By Ian Begley | ESPNNewYork.com

Amare Stoudemire reiterated that he will return before the end of the regular season in a video he released on Thursday night.

"Absolutely, I'll be back before the playoffs," Stoudemire posted on his YouTube channel, STAT TV.

According to a report by Yahoo! Sports, Stoudemire will return Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the Knicks have officially listed him as day to day. The team clinched a playoff berth on Thursday night after the Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Indiana Pacers.

Stoudemire has been out since March 24 with a bulging disk in his back. Interim coach Mike Woodson said Stoudemire 'possibly' can return to the lineup on Friday against the Cavaliers.

The Knicks had hoped to see Stoudemire test his injury on Thursday in a scrimmage at the team's practice facility.

According to a team spokesman, the Knicks were unable to hold the scrimmage because they didn't have enough players available.

Stoudemire is expected to participate in the team's shootaround on Friday morning, giving him another opportunity to test his back injury before the game.

In the video, Stoudemire said he's been working on strengthening his back and has "no doubt" that he'll be back at 100 percent health.

"It was a bulging disk, so whenever that happens your back goes into a (spasm)," he said. "So you want to take care of that as soon as possible and that's what we're doing now."

If Stoudemire does return on Friday, Woodson said he will insert the power forward into the Knicks' starting lineup.

Carmelo Anthony had been starting at power forward in place of Stoudemire. Woodson has said that Anthony will move back to small forward when Stoudemire returns. It is unclear who will be removed from the starting five, but Landry Fields, who has been struggling, is a possible candidate.

The Knicks are 9-4 without Stoudemire, but they have lacked a consistent second scorer without him -- a role Stoudemire could conceivably fill.

"Carmelo's been playing great basketball. Iman Shumpert's playing great defensively. Tyson Chandler's having a phenomenal season so far.... So, collectively, we're playing total team basketball, which is fun to be a part of," Stoudemire said in the video. Stoudemire was shooting around 40 percent from the field and averaging 17 points -- well below his career averages. But before he went down with the back ailment, Stoudemire was averaging 18 points on 57 percent shooting in the five games before his injury.

Some observers thought Stoudemire may come off the bench upon his return to the lineup, both to give the second unit a boost and to keep he and Anthony from sharing the floor. Both players' statistics from this season indicate that they are less productive when playing with one another.

But Woodson has said repeatedly that Stoudemire would return to the starting lineup, when he is healthy enough to play.

"I've got to make it work," Woodson said earlier this week of the Anthony-Stoudemire pairing.

Anthony has carried the Knicks in Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin's absence (Lin suffered a knee injury and last played on March 24). Anthony is averaging 32 points on 51 percent shooting in April -- sizable increases from his season averages of 22.6 points per game on 43 percent shooting.

Speaking after the Knicks' 104-95 win over New Jersey on Wednesday, Anthony said nothing will change when Stoudemire returns. He is looking forward to having his fellow All-Star back in the lineup.

"That's another body that we're missing that we definitely can use," Anthony said. "Another rebounder, another guy we can go to; we don't have to rely on me every night. So I'm looking forward to having Amare back."

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