Amar'e Stoudemire could be back as soon as Friday

Amar'e Stoudemire works out before a game against

Amar'e Stoudemire works out before a game against the Denver Nuggets at Madison Square Garden. (Dec. 9, 2012) (Credit: Getty)

Amar'e Stoudemire has gotten clearance to practice and could make his season debut before Christmas if he doesn't report any soreness in his left knee.

Stoudemire will practice Tuesday with the Knicks' D-League team, the Erie BayHawks, and will be evaluated after that. The Bayhawks will practice in the Knicks' Greenburgh facility Tuesday through Thursday.

Stoudemire, who had a debridement to remove dead tissue on Halloween, tentatively is scheduled to practice with the Bayhawks again Thursday. If all goes well, Mike Woodson wouldn't rule out playing Stoudemire on Friday against Chicago or Sunday against Minnesota.

"He's been cleared," Woodson said. "The practices have to go in his favor. I don't want him coming to me after [Tuesday's] practice and him say, 'Coach, I'm hurt and I'm sore.' Then we've got to evaluate it and still take it a day at a time. I'm not going to rush him back. He's got to be ready. I'm waiting on him to tell me he's ready to go."

Stoudemire was expected to miss six to eight weeks after the procedure. He has upped the intensity of his workouts lately, going through vigorous pregame routines.

"I think he's moving in a positive way," Woodson said. "Everything is going according to plan. We just haven't had any time to get some practice in."

Stoudemire is running with the BayHawks because the Knicks aren't planning to practice fully Tuesday and might not Thursday. Woodson said he doesn't want to push them too hard.

To ease him back, Stoudemire probably will come off the bench at first. But the Knicks have been playing so well with Carmelo Anthony at power forward that Woodson has to consider bringing Stoudemire off the bench full-time.

Woodson said he will address that when the time comes. But he repeatedly has said he believes he can make the Anthony-Stoudemire combination work. When both play, the Knicks are 30-33 in the regular season but 8-2 under Woodson.

The rotation will undergo changes soon, regardless. Iman Shumpert is expected back from knee surgery in January. Rasheed Wallace missed his second straight game with a sore left foot and was in a walking boot, but Woodson downplayed his injury.

"I'm not really that concerned," Woodson said. "My thing is eventually we'll get everybody back on the floor and then you guys will be saying who's going to play and this and that. That's a good position to be in."

So when everyone comes back, who plays, Mike?

"Who knows?" Woodson said. "It's something I've got to figure out."

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