GREEN BAY, Wis. - Amar'e Stoudemire, J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin scrimmaged with the Knicks Tuesday for the first time since last season, giving Mike Woodson a reason to be encouraged about his team a week before the opener.
"A lot of talent and depth," Woodson said. "If we're able to stay healthy and there's no setbacks we got a lot of depth."
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Staying healthy is the key, especially with Stoudemire, who had three knee procedures in a 10-month span. But Stoudemire emerged from the 10-minute scrimmage at Humber College in Toronto -- he played about six -- saying he felt better than expected.
"I felt extremely strong," Stoudemire said. "My legs may be as strong as they've ever been before. I felt no discomfort at all. I felt no pain at all. So great, great sign."
The Knicks, who play their next-to-last preseason game Wednesday night against the Bucks, will take it slowly with Stoudemire and Martin not just now but throughout the season.
Woodson said it's likely neither will play in Friday's preseason finale, but if they are OK next week they both could be available for next Wednesday's regular-season opener against the Bucks. Woodson said Smith, returning from two surgeries on his left knee, looked really well and barring any pain or swelling he would play Friday against the Bobcats.
"The way J.R. moved it's like he hasn't missed a beat," Woodson said.
The earliest Smith can play in the regular season is Nov. 10 against San Antonio. He has to serve a five-game ban for violating the terms of the league's anti-drug policy. But when he returns, Smith said he doesn't expect any limitations.
"No minute restrictions," Smith said. "When I come back I want to be able to go out there full strength, full head of steam with no restrictions. If I'm under restrictions I'm not at the best ability to help the team."
Smith said there are still some things he can't do yet from an athletic and explosive standpoint, but he was encouraged that he could take his patented step-back jumper without discomfort.
"To feel comfortable and as normal as possible is the best part," Smith said.
Once Smith can practice every day he and Iman Shumpert could battle for the starting shooting guard spot. Smith wants to start but said if being a sixth man again is what Woodson wants, he's fine with it.
Stoudemire and Martin, who's nursing a left ankle injury from last season, will come off the bench and have minutes and games restrictions. Woodson said they won't play back-to-backs, and that he could alternate who plays in those situations or when they have three games in four nights or four in six.
A six-time All-Star, Stoudemire is resigned to the fact he can't play every game. But he wants to play a week from Wednesday.
"That's the goal," he said. "I didn't play the opener last year. I want to get out there and see what I can do. If I keep improving and my body keeps getting stronger, we'll see how it goes."