Amare Stoudemire back with Knicks

Updated: April 20, 2012, 6:30 PM ET
By Michael Singer | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

CLEVELAND -- Amare Stoudemire will start for the New York Knicks Friday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers after a nearly month-long absence due to a back injury.

"Don't know how many minutes I'll play him, just kind of gauge it as we go along. It's good to have him back," interim coach Mike Woodson said after Friday's shootaround.

Stoudemire has missed 13 games due to a bulging lower disk in his back and said that the injury had nothing to do with a prior back injury that plagued him throughout last year's playoffs.

"I'm actually pain free. I don't feel any pain at all," Stoudemire said Friday, the first time he's spoken to the media since late March.

Stoudemire could have potentially returned Wednesday night against the Nets but chose to sit and work himself into a bit better shape.

"We just thought about when would be a good time to get a few games under my belt, and we figured tonight would be a good start," he said. "We did a great job of just attacking the injury and making sure everything around the injury is secure."

Woodson said that he would gradually work Stoudemire into the rotation and play him about 20 minutes. Stoudemire's return bolsters an already-strong frontcourt.

"It gives us another big-time player in the lineup," Woodson said. "We're solid now. When you got Amare, (Tyson Chandler), Melo on the front line, that's as good as it gets. I just gotta make it work and I think I can do that."

In Stoudemire's absence, the Knicks are 9-4 and clinched a playoff berth for the second straight season when the Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Indiana Pacers on Thursday. Their only four losses during that span have come at the hands of the current top four seeds in the Eastern Conference -- Chicago, Miami, Indiana, and Atlanta.

Carmelo Anthony, who had been starting at power forward in place of Stoudemire, will move back to small forward. Shooting guard Landry Fields, who has been struggling of late, will come off the bench while rookie guard Iman Shumpert remains in the starting lineup.

Anthony, who averages 22.6 points per game, has scored at least 28 points in nine of the 13 games Stoudemire has been out. There was some concern how Anthony and Stoudemire would co-exist given that each has scored significantly less than his individual averages while the other was on the court, but Stoudemire rejected the notion.

"When Mike took over and we were on the court, I think our record was 6-1. So I don't see what the big deal is," he said.

The Knicks hope that Stoudemire can provide a consistent second scoring option that they've lacked at times in his absence.

Stoudemire was shooting about 40 percent from the field and averaging 17 points for much of the season -- well below his career averages. Before he went down with the back ailment, Stoudemire was averaging 18 points on 57 percent shooting in the five games before his injury.

In other developments, the Knicks are expected to add big man Dan Gadzuric to the roster. Gadzuric traveled with the team to Cleveland. With Jared Jeffries out, the Knicks need depth in the second unit. Jeffries is expected to rest until the start of the playoffs to try to heal his sore right knee, which has been bothering him for the past two months.

Small forward Bill Walker, 24, will be waived to make room on the roster for Gadzuric. Gadzuric, a nine-year veteran, is expected to be eligible for the playoffs."

Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley was used in this report.

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