Stoudemire returns, in limited role

INDIANAPOLIS -- Amar'e Stoudemire made his first appearance for the Knicks since March 7 on Saturday. Physically, his return was a success. Stoudemire was upbeat after the game regarding his knee.

“It feels great, as far as my body’s concerned,” Stoudemire said. “[I] feel healthy. Feel strong. Felt explosive. Felt I was in better shape than I thought I was.”

Stoudemire contributed seven points in nine minutes, and the Knicks played even with the Pacers on the scoreboard in his time on the court. His return offers some promise for a Knicks team that finds itself down 2-1 in the series and facing a near "must win" Tuesday night in Indianapolis.

Stoudemire brings both size and skill against a Pacers team that has taken the lead in this series by being bigger and more physical than the higher-seeded Knicks. His skill in the pick-and-roll could be a big help against an Indiana squad susceptible to its bigs being pulled away from the basket.

“I’ve been pretty dominant in the pick-and-roll game for most of my career,” Stoudemire said. “Teams have to respect the roll. It opens up the rest of the court. [Opponents] have to pick their poison.”

But there’s a clear limit to how much Stoudemire can help. Specifically, a minutes limit. Before the game, Knicks coach Mike Woodson said the power forward would not get more than 10 to 12 minutes per game in this series. On Saturday, Stoudemire got nine -- and none with Carmelo Anthony.

When asked about playing more minutes, Stoudemire did not express a great deal of urgency.

"There’s no pressure right now, as far as forcing the issue with minutes played,” he said. “Slowly getting back out there. It feels great to just be on the basketball court with my team and back in the battle.”

When questioned about minutes and playing alongside Anthony, Stoudemire demurred. When pressed, he responded, “Right now, it’s a matter of myself getting into a good rhythm. The coaching staff will figure out the best way for us to win it."

Despite all the uncertainty surrounding Stoudemire and, increasingly, the Knicks’ playoff future, the player was decidedly happy to be back on the floor.

“Being back on the basketball court is always a great feeling for myself," Stoudemire said. "I just love the game, and the game somewhat loves me."

Still, there were no happy endings for New York on Saturday night, and Stoudemire finished by saying, “But, the fact that we lost is not a great feeling."