GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- If all goes well, Amar'e Stoudemire will be back for Game 3 of the Knicks' playoff series against the Pacers on Saturday.
Stoudemire, who has been sidelined since March 7 with a right knee issue, will miss Game 1 and Game 2 of the series Sunday and Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. But Knicks coach Mike Woodson said after practice Saturday that he has a plan to get him ready for action when the series shifts to Indiana for Game 3 next Saturday.
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Woodson plans to have Stoudemire scrimmage with a group of players on Thursday and Friday and see how he responds to his first contact practice in two months.
"If he feels fine after Friday,'' Woodson said, "then I think we'll play him Saturday.''
Stoudemire had a debridement procedure to remove tissue from his right knee on March 11. At the time, the Knicks said he would be out for six weeks. He had the same operation on his left knee in late October and returned on New Year's Day. In 29 games between the two surgeries, he averaged 14.2 points.
Stoudemire did not speak to reporters after Saturday's practice. He said a little more than a week ago that he hoped to return in the second round if the Knicks got past the Celtics. The Knicks did that by winning Game 6 in Boston on Friday night.
The Pacers hold a decent size advantage over the Knicks, so the 6-11 Stoudemire could really help the Knicks' inside game.
But because the Knicks have been playing pretty good basketball without Stoudemire in the lineup -- they won 16 of their final 18 games in the regular season before winning a playoff series for the first time in 13 years -- there has been some concern about what his return will do to the team's chemistry. Woodson, however, sees his return as nothing but a plus.
"If he's right, he can help us a lot. There's no doubt,'' he said. "You guys saw how he played with that second unit. He was pretty good, I thought. We would probably expect the same thing. Ain't no probably; we would expect the same thing out of him if he comes back.''
Knicks center Tyson Chandler said the return of Stoudemire would be a big help against a team like the Pacers.
Said Chandler: "It will be great because having that extra big man will give an opportunity for myself and Kenyon [Martin] to be on the floor so much without worrying about fouls.''