By John Schmeelk
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Amar’e Stoudemire won’t be traveling to Milwaukee with the Knicks on Wednesday night. He’ll stay home with swelling in his knee.
Of course, shortly after Mike Woodson announced the injury and said Stoudemire would be out for a while, Stoudemire told Knicks fans on Twitter that his body and knee felt great. He intimated that the only reason he wasn’t playing in Milwaukee was because he had played six games in eight nights and his body needed a rest. Whatever the truth might be (and with the Knicks, you never know), he will not play on Wednesday night. Neither will Kenyon Martin, who has a strained abdominal muscle.
Much like last year, Woodson will be forced to go away from the big lineups that he has insisted on throughout this season. His only two healthy traditional fours and fives are newly-healthy Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani. Sorry Cole Aldrich, you don’t count. That means Carmelo Anthony and likely Metta World Peace will be the power forwards with guards playing the other three positions on the court. For a team that thrives in the pick-and-roll while spreading the floor, that’s a good thing.
Unfortunately with the fractured toe of Pablo Prigioni and Ray Felton’s balky hamstring, the Knicks won’t yet be able to return to the two point-guard lineups that worked so well last season. The Knicks called up Chris Smith to provide some backcourt help, but no one is expecting him to play at all. He is simply an emergency insurance policy while Knicks fans will finally get a chance to see what long and defensive-oriented Toure’ Murry can do.
The bottom line, however, is that the Knicks can’t expect too much out of their point-guard position.
With Chandler returning, and if Stoudemire was still healthy, it would have created a logjam at center and power forward, and moved Anthony out of power forward for long stretches at a time. Woodson now no longer has the bodies to execute a plan like that. Let’s be honest — with the way Woodson is coaching, the fewer the decisions he makes, the better. He hasn’t been able to settle on a consistent rotation or lineup combinations all year long. Now he has no choice since the Knicks only have nine or 10 players available.
As well as Stoudemire had played the last handful of games, his defense was still a hindrance and his plus/minus still wasn’t overly impressive. In many ways he was still hurting the team out there on the court. Playing him with Bargnani and/or Anthony simply hurt the defense way too much that any offensive uptick had trouble making up for it. Those lineups will no longer be a possibility.
These type of injuries forced Woodson into finding his way last year, and now he will have a similar opportunity with all these injuries. It might work. Then again, the fact that they have to use Beno Udrih and Murry as their point guards might negate any positive effect. It seems as though James Dolan decided to give Woodson one more chance to win with Chandler back from injury. His clock was ticking before, but now it is nearing zero. The Knicks better start winning now, for Woodson’s sake.
The Knicks’ handling of Stoudemire has been confounding.
Woodson said earlier in the year that they pushed Stoudemire too hard last year, and that’s why his knees fell apart. In reaction to that, they limited him this year to no back-to-backs and no more than 20 minutes a game to protect his knees. With the season slipping away and Woodson fearing for his job, all of Stoudemire’s limitations began to slip away. It even got to the point last week that Stoudemire played four games in five nights.
Woodson readily admitted that Stoudemire wouldn’t have played that much if the team’s record was better. They put Stoudemire and his career at risk to try to win, despite their own plan developed at the start of the season. This is a perfect example of how the Knicks work. They are dysfunctional, and it has put Stoudemire back on the shelf.
You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for the latest on the Knicks, Giants and everything else New York sports.
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