SYRACUSE -- The Knicks will begin the regular season without Amar'e Stoudemire and could open with Carmelo Anthony at power forward.

Stoudemire is expected to miss two to three weeks with a ruptured popliteal cyst in his troublesome left knee. He felt discomfort in the knee Saturday night and flew home Sunday morning for an MRI that revealed the issue.

Stoudemire had microfracture surgery on the knee when he was with Phoenix. The same knee kept him out of the first two preseason games because of a bone bruise.

If he's out the full three weeks, Stoudemire will miss five games. The Knicks said he won't need surgery and that his knee will require rest and treatment. But this is a huge hit for a team that's trying to build chemistry and has aspirations of playing for an NBA title.

"It's sad," Anthony said after practice at the Carrier Dome. "Hopefully it's nothing too serious. Mentally, I'm just sad for him. It seems like he can't catch a break . . . We got his back, and the most important thing is for him to get healthy right now and take that time to do that. We'll hold it down for him."

Knicks coach Mike Woodson said Kurt Thomas will start in place of Stoudemire against the 76ers Monday night. The Knicks end the preseason Wednesday night against the Nets.

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Woodson said he could stay with Thomas when the season starts Nov. 1 in Brooklyn or go small the way he did late last season, when Stoudemire missed 13 games with a bulging disc in his lower back. Anthony played well at power forward then and said he's "pretty sure" he will reprise that role.

Woodson said it will depend on matchups.

"If they've got a big lineup, you might want Kurt in the game and play Melo at his natural position," he said. "If they've got a small lineup like Miami plays with [Chris] Bosh at the center and LeBron [James] at [power forward], then you can play Melo. That's the beauty of having the guys that we have: You can mix and match at certain positions."

Miami is the Knicks' opponent in their Garden opener Nov. 2.

Stoudemire played Friday night against the Raptors and shot 8-for-11, scoring 18 points in 27 minutes. Woodson already had decided to give Stoudemire the night off for Saturday's game against Boston. But when Stoudemire said his knee was bothering him, the Knicks sent him for tests.

According to, a popliteal cyst causes "a bulge and a feeling of tightness behind your knee" and "is usually the result of a problem with your knee joint, such as arthritis or a cartilage tear." It also said treating the problem provides relief.

Woodson couldn't shed additional light, saying he hadn't spoken to the medical staff. But this is the latest in a series of injuries for one of the Knicks' most important players.

Back issues limited Stoudemire in the 2011 postseason. He also missed two games last season with an ankle injury and several practices this season because of his ankle and knee.

The Knicks went 13-5 without Stoudemire last season. If they play well this time, there could be some clamoring for bringing him off the bench, especially given that he and Anthony haven't proven they fit well together.

The Knicks have depth up front, though. Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby are close to scrimmaging and there's a good chance that rookie Chris Copeland will make the roster.

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"He'll rebound," Woodson said of Stoudemire. "Hey, injuries happen, man. I'm not one to sit as a coach and complain about injuries. I've got to go with who's in uniform and get them ready to play."