Mike Woodson started a different power forward Thursday night, but it wasn't Amar'e Stoudemire. Marcus Camby replaced Kurt Thomas against the Spurs. Stoudemire, who played his second game since returning from knee surgery, remains the NBA's highest-paid reserve.
Woodson hasn't said whether this will be a full-time role. But Stoudemire continues to sound as if he's embracing being a backup.
"It's a great role," he said before scoring 10 points in the Knicks' 100-83 win. "It's something that we can cherish. Us being the second-unit guys that come in and ignite the team, keep the momentum going. It's something that we need."
Perhaps the bigger question is when will Stoudemire finish games?
Woodson said Stoudemire needs clearance to play more. He played 21 last night, about four more than Tuesday against Portland. He was on the court at the end of Thursday night's blowout win to get some extra work in.
"He asked me," Stoudemire said. "He was like 'Do you want four, five minutes?' I said absolutely. Just to get in a rhythm, to be out there with the second unit and to close the game out."
Stoudemire's minutes are expected to gradually rise. But the Knicks will be cautious because they want him healthy and strong later in the season and for the playoffs.
Woodson switched Thursday night to Camby, hoping he would help defensively and on the boards. Thomas isn't the reason the Knicks were starting slowly and their defense sputtered lately. Many times, it's the perimeter players not keeping their man in front of them that's getting everyone out of position.
"Camby starting really helped us from a defensive standpoint. He was solid,'' Woodson said.
"I'm not going there with you guys on that," Woodson said. "I think Mike D'Antoni is a great coach and he does a lot of wonderful things on both ends of the floor. Amar'e's entitled to his opinion. I think every coach in this league is a great coach. It's not an easy job, by no means."
Spurs forward Stephen Jackson sprained his right ankle when he crashed into a waitress working the sideline in front of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. After missing a corner jumper, Jackson stepped backward and onto the waitress, kneeling in front of courtside seats.