Amar'e Stoudemire may not start

Updated: May 21, 2013, 9:35 PM ET
By Jared Zwerling | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The New York Knicks are unsure whether Amar'e Stoudemire, their highest-paid player, will return to a starting role next season.

Knicks coach Mike Woodson told reporters that he would not commit to a starting position for Stoudemire, who will make $21.68 million next season and $23.41 million in 2014-15 -- the final year of his contract.

"I haven't made that decision," Woodson said Tuesday. "I'll have this summer to kind of evaluate where I go with that. First things first, he's got to come back healthy."

Knicks general manager Glen Grunwald said he is "hopeful" that Stoudemire will be healthy. But if not, Woodson said a minutes restriction "may be the case" for the six-time All-Star forward, like it was during the playoffs.

If Stoudemire is fully healthy -- he had a debridement procedure on each knee during the regular season -- the team envisions a big role for the 30-year-old forward. Stoudemire averaged 14.2 points, on 57.7 percent shooting, and 5.0 rebounds in 29 games this past season despite playing just 23.5 minutes per game.

"He's a heck of a player," Grunwald said. "The question is his health and how much he can play. So we've got our medical staff and training staff working with him to design an offseason program that will get him to full health.

"We hope he'll be able to play significant minutes for us next year. How much that will be, we don't know at this time. But when he came and played for us … he was, as [Woodson] said, a big factor in those games."

Part of that offseason program likely will include Stoudemire working with Hakeem Olajuwon again.

Last summer, Stoudemire spent two weeks with the Hall of Fame center at his ranch outside Houston learning post-up moves. The training was designed to give the Knicks a main inside scoring threat and to create better spacing on the court between Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony.

"That was made mention in our exit meetings that [Stoudemire] wanted to kind of continue some of [working with Olajuwon]," Woodson said. "I thought it helped him because here's a guy who's never played on the block, and I thought we saw some pretty good signs of some of the work that he put in last summer with 'The Dream.' So if he's going to continue in that direction, I would like to see him continue doing some work with Hakeem this summer."

Reflecting on the Knicks' Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Indiana Pacers, Woodson said Stoudemire would've had a "major" impact if healthy, giving the Knicks a boost inside. In four games during the series -- Stoudemire returned for Game 3 from right knee surgery -- he averaged only eight minutes of playing time.

"STAT could have really helped us in that area because we had developed him over the summer to give us some low-post scoring," Woodson said. "The fact that he just wasn't up, I think where we needed him to be based on his injuries, that kind of hurt us a little bit."

Jared Zwerling is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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