STAT suits up, says he feels 'great'

NEW YORK -- In a bit of a surprise move, the Knicks allowed Amar'e Stoudemire to play his fourth game in five nights on Saturday.

Stoudemire had another strong game off the bench for the Knicks. He finished with nine points and five rebounds (all offensive) in 19 minutes.

In the three games prior, Stoudemire scored 15.7 points in 29 minutes. So Woodson wanted to hold him to 20 minutes against the Hawks.

"His production he’s been giving us has been phenomenal," Carmelo Anthony.

Anthony and the rest of the Knicks were surprised to see Stoudemire on the floor on Saturday.

Stoudemire and the Knicks originally thought after Friday's game that the veteran power forward would sit out on Saturday. But Stoudemire told the team that he "felt great" on Saturday morning and he was cleared to play.

The Knicks have been extremely cautious with Stoudemire thus far this season. They've taken every measure to make sure his oft-injured knees don't break down again. That's why the decision to play Stoudemire is a bit of a surprise. He has played at least 27 minutes in all three games this week, including his first back-to-back of the season on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Mike Woodson was asked before the game if Stoudemire would be in the lineup if the Knicks were 15-5 instead of 6-16.

"Probably not," Woodson said. "That’s a good question. Maybe not. I don’t know. ... I’ve just got to be a little careful with that."

The last time Stoudemire played four games in five nights -- last March -- he needed arthroscopic surgery days later that sidelined him for the remainder of the regular season.

Before tipoff on Saturday, Stoudemire said he felt "great" and he wasn't concerned about aggravating any knee injuries. Stoudemire had three knee procedures over a 10-month span.

"I have more faith this year than I had last year," Stoudemire said. "I think that plays a major factor in my decision tonight. I have no worries at all."

The Knicks needed Stoudemire on Saturday night because Kenyon Martin was out with an abdominal injury, and Tyson Chandler remained out with a broken right leg.

"When a man’s down that’s when another man steps up," said Stoudemire, who added that his knees felt "great" after the game. "That’s when I was able to get out there and really give it a go."

Stoudemire has had several procedures on both of his knees in his 11 years in the NBA.

Stoudemire's contract with the Knicks -- a five-year, $100 million pact -- is uninsured because of his history of knee issues. Stoudemire is scheduled to make a combined $45 million over the final two years of his deal, this year and next.

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