LONDON –- Amar'e Stoudemire plans to return to the New York Knicks' lineup Thursday on their British detour against the Milwaukee Bucks. How much longer he remains a Knick is now up for debate.
With only a few months left on his five-year, $100 million contract, the 32-year-old can expect that his days amid the NBA’s highest earners are coming to a close.
But with a swollen right knee keeping him on the sidelines since the Knicks' Christmas Day defeat to the Washington Wizards, the London appearance will likely signal the beginning of the end of Stoudemire’s days as a Knick.
Whether he leaves of his own accord or is shown the exit door, the process of hard questions over his long-term future is underway.
“It’s a very difficult situation at this point," Stoudemire told reporters following practice at London’s Imperial College. “It’s a hard decision for me to make. My loyalty has always been with New York and the Knicks.
“So it will be tough right now to make a decision as far as going somewhere else at this point. It’s something I have to think about. I’m sure over time I’ll sit and think about the best scenario for myself.
“For now, I know I’ve been through injuries throughout my career. I have to make sure I’m able to be strong enough and prepared to play for a team contending for a championship. New York is trying to rebuild. Hopefully that will be sooner than later.”
The Knicks, sources told ESPN.com recently, are not looking to move Stoudemire and, at least for now, intend to keep him for the rest of the season.
But sources say they have discussed internally the possibility of buying out Stoudemire to let him play for a contender if he preferred that route. Stoudemire, of course, would have to agree to such a transaction.
It remains an outside possibility that -- with team president Phil Jackson declaring any option is explorable for his ailing 5-35 team -- Stoudemire could be waived after the forthcoming trade deadline.
That, in truth, would probably occur only if he demanded a quick departure, but the veteran has signaled his wish to mentor the inexperienced Knicks core, something of which Jackson would surely approve.
Ian Begley contributed to this report