GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Three years after being tabbed by the Knicks as the foundation of the franchise's rebuild, Amar'e Stoudemire could enter next season as a reserve who plays restricted minutes.
Stoudemire, who has two years and $45 million left on his contract, was limited to 29 regular-season games this season after undergoing surgery on both knees. Now, after being eliminated by Indiana in the second round of the playoffs, the Knicks know they could use a dependable low-post option and a second scorer behind All-Star Carmelo Anthony. From the way general manager Glen Grunwald and coach Mike Woodson were talking Tuesday, it doesn't sound like they're depending on Stoudemire to be either.
"We'll have to obviously wait for the doctors and see where things wind up, but it's a possibility," Grunwald said when asked if Stoudemire would be on a minutes restriction next season.
Stoudemire, 30, has averaged 21.3 points in his 11-year career. In his three years with the Knicks, however, his scoring production has fallen from 25.3 to 17.5 to 14.2 this season. His minutes per game have gone from 36.8 to 32.8 to 23.5.
"Well, he's a heck of a player," Grunwald said. "I think we all know that. The question is his health and how much he can play. So we've got our medical staff and training staff working with him to design an offseason program that will get him to full health. And we hope he'll be able to play significant minutes for us next year. How much that will be we don't know at this time."
Coming back from knee surgery, Stoudemire was limited to four brief playoff appearances, all in the second round. In the Knicks' final two games, Woodson did not use him in the second half. The Knicks coach said that he wasn't sure yet what Stoudemire's role would be next season.
"I haven't made that decision," he said when asked if Stoudemire would start. "I'll have the summer to kind of evaluate where I go with that. First things first, he's got to come back healthy . . . A lot's going to depend on where he is once he steps foot in vet camp in terms of where he is health-wise and minute restrictions. All of that is going to play a major role in terms of where we go with our ballclub and him playing because I just don't know at this point."