Without Amar'e, Knicks counting on depth

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- It feels a lot like late last season when Amar'e Stoudemire went down, with everyone wanting to know: Where is the secondary scoring going to come from?

After practice on Saturday, Carmelo Anthony had the reason why this season's team is better prepared for Stoudemire's absence while the power forward recovers from a ruptured popliteal cyst in his left knee.

"We're definitely a deeper team," Anthony said.

Mike Woodson continued the conversation.

"I think our team is a little bit deeper than what we had last year," he said. "When a key guy goes down, other guys gotta step up, and I feel pretty good about the guys that are in uniform until Amar'e gets back. So it's going to be my job as the coach to push the guys that do play in practice to play at a high level once they step out on that floor."

Woodson will have to lean on Anthony, Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith to carry more of the scoring load. They'll still have Tyson Chandler to set up and score in pick-and-rolls. His presence will help the Knicks establish better spacing and ball rotation.

Without Stoudemire, the Knicks' role players will need to create and finish more plays in halfcourt sets, and take advantage of open opportunities. As it is, the team doesn't have a deep 3-point shooting cast. They'll especially need to rebound, which STAT does pretty well (his career average is just under nine boards per night). In the preseason, that was one of the team's biggest weaknesses.

One benefit the Knicks have is their seasoned depth at point guard. Last season, all of the shuffling at the one -- from Toney Douglas to Iman Shumpert to Mike Bibby to Jeremy Lin to Baron Davis -- made it difficult for the Knicks to develop offensive consistency from the starting five to the second unit.

Now, Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni will help balance out the offense and keep players moving to the right spots to boost chances for scoring.

Chandler has already noticed the difference on the court with those three guys.

"It's been helping so much," he said after practice on Friday. "You can see the growth throughout the preseason. You see Pablo getting a lot more comfortable out there, Raymond getting comfortable out there running the ship, and then Jason coming in and orchestrating things. It's just been excellent.

"It's been excellent to watch their growth as a unit and then also getting comfortable enough to start being vocal now. It takes a while for you to understand personalities and all of that, and I think throughout training camp, now they're to a point where they feel very comfortable running the ship."

The Knicks have multiple offensive weapons this season -- not to mention, a better rotation of floor generals -- and that's why they are optimistic about their talent pool. But they know that avoiding injuries is everything.

"It's all about staying healthy. It really is," Steve Novak said Saturday. "If we stay healthy, I couldn't be more confident in who we have and who we are.

"Our depth, I think, is the best in the league."

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