CLEVELAND (AP) — The New York Knicks finally have their other All-Star forward back. Amare Stoudemire couldn’t be happier.
And Carmelo Anthony won’t have to do it alone.
Stoudemire, who hasn’t played since March 24 because of a bulging disk in his back, was in the starting lineup Friday night as the Knicks, who already have wrapped up a playoff spot, visited the Cavaliers. The Knicks went 9-4 without Stoudemire, who is averaging 17.6 points and 8.0 rebounds.
“He’s like a little kid out there running around, just happy to be back in uniform,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said before tip-off.
Stoudemire has been reunited with Anthony, who had to carry the scoring load without his frontcourt running mate. The pair has been reunited just in time for the postseason.
“Carmelo is a phenomenal player, but he can’t do it by himself,” Stoudemire said. “The rest of the team is playing well, but for me to get back out there and be the dynamic scorer that I am, alongside him, it’s a great one-two option.”
Woodson said he will monitor Stoudemire’s minutes, easing him back as the team ramps up for the playoffs. After facing the Cavs, the Knicks have three games left.
“I won’t play him big minutes,” Woodson said. “We’ll slowly go along with him and try to build his endurance up each game. If everything goes according to plan, we will increase his minutes. We’ll see how he feels. He’ll let me know as we go along through this process.”
Woodson said he’s not worried about Stoudemire scoring, but rather how he will adjust to New York’s defensive schemes.
“That’s my big concern,” Woodson said. “I’m more concerned about five guys on the floor helping one another defend and rebound the ball. Offensively, we’ll figure it out with him out there. He’s too good of a player not to figure it out. I’m looking on the defensive end to make sure he’s doing the right rotations and blocking out and guarding his man in one-on-one positions.”
Also, New York guard Baron Davis will not face his former team. He’s out with a stomach virus. Mike Bibby will start at guard with Iman Shumpert.
Landry Fields had taken Stoudemire’s spot in the starting lineup but will return to a reserve role.
Woodson also will rest forward Jared Jeffries against the Cavs because of a sore right knee.
As insurance, the Knicks signed backup center Dan Gadzuric, who was not with a team this season. He played for New Jersey and Golden State in 2011.