Opening Tip: Stoudemire in better shape?

Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.

Today's Burning Question: Could Amar'e Stoudemire return as the Amar'e of old?

The hot news items being discussed from the Knicks' win over the Bobcats are Carmelo Anthony's finger laceration and J.R. Smith's game-winning shot.

But there's one other thing, which came out of pregame. MSG Network Knicks reporter Tina Cervasio reported this via Twitter: "Amar'e told me he's had no setbacks, in better shape than preseason & next step is being cleared for contact."

This obviously sounds great, and hopefully Stoudemire knows his body well enough that there isn't any additional pain arising. The matter of fact is the Knicks need Stoudemire. They need an additional inside presence beyond Tyson Chandler, who's been exploding recently for high double-doubles, but he's basically on his own interior island.

Let's face it: While Rasheed Wallace has been a pleasant surprise, he's been inconsistent, and Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas have offered very little. Camby is not even playing. Chris Copeland has shown glimpses he can definitely score, but Mike Woodson has him buried in the rotation right now. So Stoudemire has a huge window of opportunity.

Look at the box score from Wednesday night, which was only a two-point decision. The Knicks had 41 3-point attempts (compared to the Bobcats' 16), and they lost the points-in-the-paint scoring margin by 12. Overall, this has been a consistent theme, even though they've been winning games. But it shows they can greatly improve with Stoudemire.

I'm not going to approach the "Should STAT start or not?" question right now. It's what he'll bring that matters, especially if he's in as good shape as he's saying.

Stoudemire could help balance out the offense, making it less of a downtown aerial display. He spent three weeks during the offseason working with Hakeem Olajuwon to be more of a post player. That will really come in handy. His attack off the dribble is already strong.

And on nights like tonight in Miami, where Anthony isn't 100 percent healthy, Stoudemire can still be that scoring punch who's sorely needed. Most importantly, STAT's defense needs to step up to match the rest of the team's effort and effectiveness.

Do you think Stoudemire can return with a lot left, and how do you see him contributing? Leave us your comments below.

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