- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- For the first time since suffering lacerations to his left hand, New York Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire went through shooting drills, ran full court, dunked and even palmed the ball with his injured hand during Friday's practice.
Afterward, interim coach Mike Woodson was optimistic about Stoudemire returning Sunday for Game 4 of the Heat-Knicks first-round playoff series.
"I think he's going to play. I'm not a hundred percent sure," said Woodson, who added that he'd know more about Stoudemire's status after talking with the Knicks' medical staff. "Just watching him run up and down and catch, my thought is he's going to probably play. I don't know."
Stoudemire is cautiously optimistic, but he isn't as sure as his coach. He said his status remains "doubtful" for Sunday's game but he hopes that, after going through practice on Saturday and pregame workouts on Sunday, he'll be able to suit up for Game 4.
"It's still doubtful," Stoudemire said after working out with padding and a large bandage on his left hand. "(I've) still got to make sure the reaction off today's practice is not severe. We'll see how I feel tomorrow, and even after tomorrow. ... So I'm gonna be doubtful probably until up to game time."
He needed stitches to close the wound and underwent a surgical procedure on Tuesday to repair what the Knicks called a "small muscle" in his hand. Stoudemire tweeted a photo of his stitched hand on Friday.
The Heat have a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. With Stoudemire on the bench with his arm in a sling Thursday, Miami beat the Knicks soundly in Game 3, 87-70.
On Friday, Stoudemire ran full court drills with Jeremy Lin, Toney Douglas and Knicks assistant coach Kenny Atkinson. Afterward, the power forward said he was pleased with the progress he's made but is not fully healthy.
"I'll wait and see how the reaction is after work today. So we'll see tomorrow how it feels. If it feels great tomorrow, then I'll practice again tomorrow and then we'll see for Sunday," he said.
Stoudemire injured his hand after hitting the glass case of a fire extinguisher in frustration after the Knicks' Game 2 loss on Monday.
He said the cut was extremely close to a nerve in his hand.
"It was a pretty significant cut. I feel extremely blessed in the situation (because) the cut was a millimeter away from a nerve," Stoudemire said. " ... I feel great that I'm able to get back on the basketball court and still run and play and use my hand, off an incident that wasn't on purpose, just a reaction out of losing a game, (it) almost cost me my hand."
Many fans and media members were critical of Stoudemire for suffering another self-inflicted injury in the postseason.
Last year, he hurt his back during a trick dunk attempt before Game 2 of the Knicks' first-round series against Boston and was limited by the injury.
"Everybody's going to have their own opinion. That's freedom of speech, so I can't get upset with the amendment," Stoudemire said. "My job is to stay focused on the task at hand. My teammates understand the situation. Most athletes around the world understand what happens (when players lose their tempers after games). It happens every day in sports. But an injury doesn't really occur, most of the time."
Stoudemire said his main motivation to return to the court on Sunday was to be with his teammates and to play for the fans who remained in his corner during the ordeal.
"All the fans that stuck with me deserve to see me back on the court," Stoudemire said. "But it's mainly for my teammates, because they're working their butts off all season to be in this position to try to go to the next round. ... Hopefully, we can get a win Sunday, take it to Miami for Wednesday. But I'm doing it mainly for the fans that stuck with me and for my teammates."
Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.
Amare Stoudemire said he's doubtful to play on Sunday, even though interim coach Mike Woodson was more optimistic.