STAT confident he can play with Melo

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Mike Woodson isn't ready to say if Amar'e Stoudemire will come off the bench or start when he returns to the Knicks lineup.

But the coach remains confident that he can make the Stoudemire-Carmelo Anthony pairing work.

And so is Stoudemire.

"Without a doubt. I have no doubt in my mind about that," Stoudemire said when asked about things working out with he and Anthony on the court.

The question arises because Anthony and Stoudemire have, at times, struggled to play with cohesion when they've shared the floor with the Knicks.

New York is 30-33 in regular season games started by both Stoudemire and Anthony. Both players like to operate between the mid post and elbow and Stoudemire thrives in an up-tempo system while Anthony excels in isolation.

Woodson has pointed in the past to his regular season record as coach (8-2) in games in which Anthony and Stoudemire have started as one reason why he thinks it can work.

On Tuesday, he said Stoudemire's potential return makes the Knicks a much deeper team.

"Our team was pretty good last season and we’ve been pretty good this season, so I don’t see Amar’e being a problem and disrupting what we do," Woodson said. "It just makes us a deeper team. That’s kind of how I look at it."

EAST RIVER RIVALRY: Anthony said after the Knicks' win over the Nets earlier this month that Knicks-Nets games are indeed a rivalry.

He reiterated that point on Tuesday as the Knicks prepare to host the Nets at the Garden on Wednesday for the first time since the team moved to Brooklyn.

"They’re not going nowhere. We’re not going nowhere," said Anthony, who is a game-time decision with a sore left ankle. "This will be here for a long, long time."

Anthony dismissed the idea that NBA teams can't be true rivals because most stars in the league are friendly.

"A lot of the top guys in the NBA are very close. When we get out there on that basketball court, for me, I don’t know any other way. I’m out there trying to win," he said. "It’s always a battle every time we go up against each other, regardless of who it is."

SHUMPERT MAY WORK WITH BAYHAWKS: Iman Shumpert continues to progress in his rehab from offseason ACL surgery. On Tuesday, Woodson said Shumpert remains on schedule for a return in January-February. Woodson said Shumpert may scrimmage with the BayHawks, like Stoudemire did on Tuesday, because of the Knicks' lack of practice time.

MSG's Knicks-Rockets telecast was its highest rated game of the season, with a 4.77 rating. The highest rating in MSG history was for the Knicks-Nets game on Feb. 20 last season, the second time the Nets came in to face Jeremy Lin and the Knicks. That game pulled a 7.34 rating.

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