Extra rest should benefit Knicks
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After a quick trip to London for one game, and a victory, the Knicks have some time to recoup and to get their body clocks back to normal and their legs under them.
This time is invaluable to players who recently came back from knee surgeries (Iman Shumpert and Amar'e Stoudemire) and those up in age and playing more minutes than expected (Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni).
But as the Knicks, who beat the Pistons in London on Thursday, approach the midpoint of their season, they're closer to becoming whole. If and when they get there, it will mean more depth and more rest for everybody, which is critical for the NBA's oldest team.
This season is about making sure the Knicks are in the best physical shape possible heading into the playoffs. The Knicks (25-13) haven't advanced past the first round since 2000. But this veteran team's goal isn't just winning a round, it's competing for a title.
"So far, so good," Stoudemire said. "This year, we've been playing extremely well. We're at the top of our division right now, which is where we want to be. If we keep playing the way we have been defensively, we have a great chance to win our division and hopefully go from there."
The Knicks, who didn't practice Saturday, have a two-game lead over the Nets in the Atlantic Division. The two teams meet Monday afternoon at the Garden for the last time in the regular season. The Knicks are 2-1 against the Nets and would own the season-series tiebreaker with a win.
It's the start of an important week for the Knicks. They're in Boston on Thursday to face the Celtics for the first time since the Carmelo Anthony-Kevin Garnett dust-up. They will play in Philadelphia on Saturday before hosting the Hawks next Sunday.
Raymond Felton wants to play in Boston but said the weekend might be more realistic for his return. He will have his fractured right pinkie X-rayed and hopes to be cleared for contact and practice this week.
It's unclear when -- or if -- Rasheed Wallace will return from his left foot injury, although he refuted a report that his season could be over. Wallace's defense and presence could be crucial to the Knicks when the postseason comes.
When Felton returns, it will take some strain off Kidd, who turns 40 in March. He has played at least 31 minutes in 14 of the last 19 games, and his production has tailed off. Mike Woodson has said it's not healthy to play Kidd this many minutes now. The Knicks need him fresh for a postseason run.
Shumpert's return also should help in that area. He can take some of the ballhandling duties away from Kidd, who enjoyed some of his best games playing alongside Felton at shooting guard.
Shumpert was limited to 15 minutes in his season debut Thursday in London. That could be bumped up a little with the Knicks having three days between games.
Woodson can play Stoudemire for 30 minutes now. His play against Detroit showed he could be ready for a bigger role, as he scored 17 points in 20 minutes.
"I think he's starting to figure out some things and his conditioning is starting to come," Woodson said. "I think it will continue to grow based on his minutes. When they grow, I think that he will continue to play positive minutes for us because we're going to need that."
"My main goal has been to be better defensively," Stoudemire said. "But my offense is definitely going to improve the more I play, the more we play and the better we'll become."