STAT cleared for contact

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Amar'e Stoudemire took a big step toward getting back on the court Saturday, but his status for the season opener is still up in the air.

Stoudemire was cleared for contact and participated in half-court drills Saturday. It was the first contact for Stoudemire since he underwent surgery on his knee over the summer.

"I felt explosive. So we’ll see how the progress continues," Stoudemire said.

Stoudemire collided with rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. in half-court drills and hit his head, but he seemed to be OK.

The next step for the six-time All-Star is to scrimmage.

"We just have to see how he feels tomorrow," Mike Woodson said. "That’s the key, making sure he doesn’t have any setbacks and we continue to build."

The Knicks and Stoudemire are hopeful he can play in the season opener on Oct. 30, but there are no guarantees at this point.

"If there’s no setbacks we hope he’ll be there for opening night," Woodson said. "We’ll have some practice time prior to us opening and we’ll scrimmage a lot more and try to hopefully tailor some minutes in the scrimmage that will carry over into the regular season. It’s a day at a time."

The 11-year veteran played in just 29 regular season games last season due to recurring knee issues. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on both knees to clean out debris.

Stoudemire also had microfracture surgery on his knee in 2005.

Once Stoudemire, 30, takes the floor, he will play under a minutes restriction. Last season, the restriction was set at 30 minutes. It is unclear at this point what the restriction will be this season.

It's also unclear when Stoudemire will take the floor.

"The goal is to be ready to start the season. We’ll see if that pans out," he said.

Stoudemire believes it's more important for him to be healthy over the long haul than it is to play in the season opener.

"The health is more important, to make sure I’m healthy," Stoudemire said. "The real season obviously starts in the playoffs."

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