Amar'e Stoudemire set to return

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The New York Knicks have established a playing-time plan for Amar'e Stoudemire, stating that the power forward will play between 10 and 15 minutes Saturday in his return from knee surgery.

Knicks coach Mike Woodson acknowledged earlier this week that Stoudemire, who hasn't played since March 7 while recovering from right knee debridement, could play in Game 3 of New York's Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Indiana Pacers.

Woodson laid out a more detailed plan Thursday after Stoudemire did not experience any setbacks during his recovery.

"It won't be very many minutes," Woodson said. "I'm thinking somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes, if that."

The Knicks also are taking into account Stoudemire's return earlier this season from left knee debridement.

"We have talked about [managing expectations]," Woodson said. "I thought maybe we might have pushed a little too much early on, so we've got to be really cautious this time around -- just to make sure that we're doing the right things with him.

"It's not that we didn't think that when he came back the first time, but this time, we really have got to be cautious. He understands; he has no choice."

Stoudemire doesn't care how much he plays; he just wants to help the team any way he can.

"It's whatever. It's a matter of will," Stoudemire said. "I can play whatever the coaching staff wants me to play. ... Any time you get on the court, you have a chance to make an impact on the game. So if I'm able to play for Game 3, however [much] time coach Woodson puts me in for, I'm going to definitely contribute."

Stoudemire said he believes he can be the same dominant player during the time he's in the game.

"Despite injuries, I still have to work and definitely work toward becoming that great player again," he said. "So as I continue to practice and get in better shape and improve, I should be able to play at a high level."

He returned to the court Thursday to take full contact in scrimmaging for the second time this week. The first time was on Monday in three-on-three play against his teammates. Wednesday was a recovery day with only shooting and conditioning.

On Thursday, he upgraded to four-on-four play and continued to look quick and explosive with his low-post moves. Most importantly, he was able to take strong contact down low and finish around the rim.

"Today, I felt even better," he said. "I did a lot more today also, so a great sign."

Stoudemire knows it will be a challenge facing Indiana's skilled frontcourt, which features Roy Hibbert, David West and
Tyler Hansbrough.

"I've been playing against these guys my whole career," Stoudemire said. "They know me and I know them, so it's going to be a battle regardless of who's out there on the court. We've got to have our focus and our determination. It's going to be a great chance to get out there, so hopefully I'm ready for Game 3."

Knicks center Tyson Chandler can't wait to have Stoudemire back.

"He's been so focused and working on things and really paying attention to the schemes," Chandler said. "We're playing against a good team, big lineups. It's a great opportunity for him to be out there. He'll give us a scoring presence on the block, so we could really use him right now."

Stoudemire said he feels similar to when he returned on New Year's Day after coming back from left knee debridement. He was able to play about two and a half months without missing a game. But there's a little extra excitement this time around as he'll be embarking on his eighth playoff run.

"It means everything to really be able to contribute and contend for a title," he said. "I mean, obviously we have a lot more to go -- we have a game to win in Indiana -- but to be able to contribute, it would be awesome."

Jared Zwerling is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.