Amar'e Stoudemire has accepted his role off the bench since returning from knee surgery, not complaining about the 30-minute restriction on his playing time.
But according to a source close to the Knicks, Stoudemire is "ready" and "healthy" to play more minutes to help the team.
"He's in tip-top shape," the source told ESPNNewYork.com. "He wants to play; whatever it takes for [the Knicks] to win."
On Sunday, Stoudemire only got in for 21 minutes -- sitting out the last eight -- in the Knicks' losing effort against the Heat. Down the stretch he was needed because when the Heat applied more aggressive defense on Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks didn't have an inside scoring threat. Tyson Chandler was in the game, but he's not one to create his own opportunities.
If Stoudemire's body is ready, it would be important to increase his minutes now, to better prepare him for increased playing time in the postseason. That's usually what happens during this critical period of the season, as coaches shorten their rotation to focus on their best players.
"Now is the time to be giving him extending minutes to see how his body reacts to it," the source said, "especially when you're not on [a] big winning streak. ... Something has to shake up."
Head coach Mike Woodson is still banking on basic perimeter play and 3-point shooting, which worked in the first two months of the season when the Knicks started 18-5. But since then, they've been mostly playing .500 ball, and there are still too many outside shots from Anthony, Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith. In fact, against the Heat, while Smith shot 3-for-14 from 3-point, Stoudemire took just seven shots from the field, making five.
The source said the Knicks are "not a real hard team to figure out right now."
Perhaps that would change if Woodson played Stoudemire more, and got him additional touches. Stoudemire is shooting nearly 60 percent from the field, and he has already produced 10-for-10 and 9-for-10 shooting nights. The Knicks won both of those games in February, not only from his scoring, but also out of his double teams. In addition, the power forward needs to be utilized as the roll man, which has always been his specialty during his 10-season career. On Sunday, Melo connected with Stoudemire twice in pick and rolls.
Stoudemire will likely continue in his current role, as the Knicks don't have another low-post scorer in their second unit. But if he's not consistently hitting 30 or more minutes, attempting 10 or more shots per game and playing with the finishing unit, alongside Chandler for better weak-side defense, the team could continue to dig itself an even deeper hole.
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