Amar’e Stoudemire stood in front of a throng of reporters inside a packed Knicks’ locker room and repeated, several times, that he’s finally in a rhythm again. Stoudemire finished with 14-points and 9 rebounds in a season-high 30 minutes off the bench, helping the Knicks stave off a hectic Chicago Bulls’ comeback for an 83-78 win at Madison Square Garden. More importantly, Stoudemire showed there was still life in those surgically repaired knees of his.
He’d been written off by reporters since he came back from another round of surgery this past summer, but all along Stoudemire has had the belief that he could be a contributor again. Even perhaps become an All-Star once again. He may never reach the lofty peak again, but on Wednesday night he took huge steps in proving the critics wrong.
“It’s great in order to be out there playing, in a desperation game, down the stretch, it feels good to be back on the court, tell you that much,” said Stoudemire, who also hit a go-ahead shot in the closing minutes that head coach Mike Woodson called, “the biggest shot of the night.”
“A lot of hard work been put in this year to get in top shape and it’s paying off,” continued Stoudemire.
That much is true. Stoudemire has worked his tail off to get where he is now, another chance to show he can still mix it up with the league’s best. What was working against him previously was a minutes restriction placed upon him – and a plan not to play him in back-to-back games – which never really allowed him to get into that game rhythm that he now speaks of. After averaging just 4.9 points per game in his first 12 appearances, Stoudemire has notched double digits in his past four.
Woodson admitted that Stoudemire being free of the minutes restriction helps the team.
“This is the longest I’ve been able to play him,” said Woodson. “He really looked good tonight. He has come a long way since the start of the season. I could only play him a certain amount of minutes [but] his minutes are starting to grow, and we are starting to benefit from that.”