Amar'e Stoudemire on track to play Game 3

Amar'e Stoudemire looks on during a game against

Amar'e Stoudemire looks on during a game against the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden. (March 3, 2013) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Amar'e Stoudemire moved closer to returning this postseason and giving the Knicks another big body they might need against the Pacers.

Stoudemire played full-court three-on-three Monday, marking the first time he's had contact since his right knee was scoped March 11. As expected, he looked rusty and winded and called it "a tough day," but he moved well.

Stoudemire won't play in Game 2 Tuesday night, but if there are no setbacks, he remains on target to return for Game 3 Saturday in Indianapolis.

"I have no pain running, jumping, cutting, slashing," Stoudemire said. "I felt explosive. The only thing now is getting my wind back up and seeing how it feels [Tuesday]."

Coach Mike Woodson had said Stoudemire wouldn't have any contact until Thursday, but he was put to the test earlier.

Tuesday will be a recovery day for Stoudemire. He might play three-on-three Wednesday and participate in practice Thursday and / or Friday to make sure he can play Saturday.

"The only way I wouldn't is if I don't recover well from [this] and if I don't recover well from the following practice," he said. "If there's any setback from that, then that would be difficult to deal with. But hopefully everything goes well."

Stoudemire, who averaged 14.2 points off the bench in 29 games this season, is antsy to return. Some maintain he could adversely affect the Knicks' chemistry and their spacing on the floor. But against the bigger Pacers, the Knicks could use another effective frontcourt player and low-post scorer.

Woodson has said he wants Stoudemire to reprise his role as a go-to guy off the bench. It took him about two weeks to regain his rhythm and timing after returning New Year's Day from a left knee operation. The Knicks might need him to return to form sooner this time, which could be difficult, especially in limited minutes.

"Stay tuned," he said. "I have no control over my impact. All I can do is play extremely hard and display my talents on the court, on both ends of the court, and we'll see how that plays out.

"Last time I came back from the other surgery, I was able to recover well and return to full strength. I have high confidence that I will do the same with this one."

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