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Schmeelk: Knicks Must Handle Issues Around Stoudemire Injury With Care

Amar'e Stoudemire (credit: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Amar’e Stoudemire (credit: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

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By John Schmeelk
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The Knicks just got dealt their first real piece of adversity of the season.

The burst cyst in Amar’e Stoudemire’s knee will cost him a couple of weeks, including the first couple games of the season against the Nets and Heat. On the surface it’s a minor injury, but it’s still a big setback considering how important the preseason was supposed to be to get the Knicks’ chemistry issues straightened out. Now that’s going to have to happen on the fly, and Knicks fans know how that has worked the past few years.

One issue creeping around this morning is that the type of cyst Stoudemire had can be from arthritis or cartilage problems in the knee. Obviously!

Like it’s news that Stoudemire has cartilage problems in the knee he had microfracture or arthroscopic surgery on. (There is some question as to which knee underwent what procedure.) The bottom line is that Stoudemire’s knees have held up over the last few years just fine, and a cyst shouldn’t cast any serious doubt on the overall state of his health.

In the short term, the Knicks will be fine with Carmelo Anthony as the lone offensive star on the floor. The Knicks played some of their best basketball at the end of the year with Stoudemire hurt. But long term, the Knicks can’t reach their full potential until Anthony and Stoudemire blend their talents. Now that will have to wait, and it will only hurt the team.

Another potential problem could crop up if the Knicks play particularly well with Stoudemire hurt. There will be calls from the fans that he should come off the bench, and I’m not sure how that will sit with the star that brought life back to the Knicks. Fans and media were already floating the idea of playing Stoudemire and Anthony separately, and this will only add fuel to the fire. Controversy follows this team, and the last thing it needs is a spat between its two best players.

Of course, fans and media fail to realize that even if one of the two doesn’t start, they will still be on the floor together for about the same number of minutes. If each guy plays 35 minutes, they will have to be on the court together for nine minutes, assuming that one of the two is always playing. If Mike Woodson works his substitution patterns right, even if both start, they will be playing without one another for 25 minutes a game. No matter what, they will be on the floor together at the end of games. The whole starting thing is nothing but noise that people waste their time on.

It will be interesting to see how the Knicks decide to work their starting lineup with Stoudemire out. With Raymond Felton at the one, Ronnie Brewer at the two and Tyson Chandler at center there is a distinct lack of shooting on the floor. It makes sense to shift Anthony to power forward, and insert either Steve Novak or J.R. Smith to spread the floor. Otherwise, teams will indiscriminately pack the paint and double Anthony, because no one out there can hurt them with an open jump shot. This type of alignment worked well last year.

I think Smith is the better option for one main reason: he will keep small forwards off of Anthony. If Novak plays the three, teams will simply shift their power forward onto him and keep their best mobile frontcourt defender on Anthony. With Smith at the three, opponents would either have to play small with the Knicks (that might help a team like the Heat) or risk putting their power forward on Anthony, Brewer or Smith. Those are mismatches that the Knicks should be able to take advantage of.

The Stoudemire injury is not a big deal in that the Knicks can survive it record-wise, and still have every chance to earn a high seed in the Eastern Conference. But it does present a number of other small problems that they have to monitor and manage so they don’t get out of hand. There are only two preseason games left, and the regular season is just 10 days away. The Knicks still have a lot of figuring out to do.

You can follow me on Twitter for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and New York sports here.

How concerned are you about Stoudemire’s injury? Do you think he’ll miss more than just a couple of weeks? Let us know in the comments section below…