Sources: Amar'e to come off the bench

As long as injuries don't necessitate otherwise, New York Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemirewill come off the bench when he returns to the team, league sources with knowledge of the Knicks' thinking said.

The Knicks hope Stoudemire will return to the lineup Tuesday at home against the Portland Trail Blazers.

The team would like Stoudemire to come off the bench initially, though sources cautioned there is a possibility he will have to return as a starter because of injuries. Carmelo Anthony was to miss his second consecutive game Friday night against the Sacramento Kings with a left knee ailment, and Raymond Felton is out four to six weeks with a fractured right pinky finger.

"It's a fluid situation (because of injuries)," one source said. "But they want him to come off the bench to start."

It's common for players who return from a lengthy absence to come off the bench initially to regain their timing. But according to sources, Knicks coach Mike Woodson is seriously considering playing Stoudemire in a reserve role for the rest of the season.

Woodson is hoping to avoid disrupting the chemistry the Knicks have established during their surprising 20-8 start. The coach and his staff also want to see how Stoudemire adjusts initially, sources say.

Woodson has not commented publicly on Stoudemire's role since the power forward underwent a left knee debridement on Oct. 31.

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