Still a chance that Amar'e Stoudemire will be ready for opener

Amar'e Stoudemire speaks as he is interviewed by Amar'e Stoudemire speaks as he is interviewed by members of the media before a team practice at the O2 arena in London. (Jan. 16, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Amar'e Stoudemire sat on the sideline with both knees heavily wrapped and a bag of ice on the side of his head. The knock on the head represented a positive step for him.

The Knicks' oft-injured $100- million man was cleared for contact and got banged up going through five-on-five halfcourt defensive work Saturday.

Stoudemire, who had a procedure on his left knee during the summer, isn't cleared to scrimmage yet. But if he continues to progress without any setbacks, there is a chance he will play in the Knicks' season opener Oct. 30.

"It's possible,'' he said. "The goal is to be ready to start the season. We'll see if that pans out.

"I feel like my strength is really there. I feel my cardio is where it needs to be. That being said, I didn't get a chance to scrimmage up and down yet. It's more physical contact in a halfcourt setting. So I felt explosive. So we'll see how the progress continues.''

Knicks coach Mike Woodson didn't rule out Stoudemire for the last preseason game Friday, but that would seem unlikely at this point. He needs to scrimmage first, and when that happens will depend on how he feels with the increased workload on his knees. Woodson already has said Stoudemire won't do much Sunday.

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Stoudemire had two operations on his left knee and one on his right in a 10-month span. He has said the plan is to do everything to prolong his career, so there is no rush to get him back playing.

"The health is more important, to make sure I'm healthy,'' Stoudemire said. "The real season obviously starts in the playoffs, which we all know, but we have to prepare ourselves for the playoffs in the regular season. So it's very important to develop that chemistry during the regular season. So hopefully if I'm strong enough -- I feel great -- I should be ready for the season opener.''

Woodson said Stoudemire will join the Knicks when they leave Monday for their two-game trip. They are scheduled to practice Tuesday. Once the preseason ends, they will have several days before the opener for Stoudemire to scrimmage and gauge whether he can play against Milwaukee Oct. 30.

"Prior to us opening up, we'll scrimmage a lot more and try to hopefully tailor some minutes from the scrimmage that will carry over into the regular season,'' Woodson said. "It's a day at a time. We just got to make sure he doesn't have any setbacks to get to that point. That's kind of my goal.''

Stoudemire won't play a lot if he is cleared and probably will be on a minutes restriction all season. He is unlikely to play in many -- if any -- back-to-backs.

Before he had his second knee operation last season, the six-time All-Star played well off the bench. He averaged 14.2 points and shot 57.7 percent, and if he's physically able, he expects to play similarly this season.

"Oh, man, I can't wait to get out there 100 percent. I want to see the efficiency continue from what I started last year,'' he said. "It's all about being efficient. My goal is to be the most efficient player in this league.''

Notes & quotes: Woodson doesn't know if Kenyon Martin will be able to play in the season opener. He said Martin is "still rehabbing'' from the left ankle injury he suffered late in the regular season last spring.

"There's a chance that he can be on the floor practicing next week,'' Woodson said. "That's our hope. We'll see how all this plays out.''

J.R. Smith, who had his left knee operated on in July, hasn't been cleared for contact yet. Woodson said Smith probably will follow a protocol similar to Stoudemire's and will need to go through some halfcourt contact first. But Smith can't play in the opener regardless. Whenever he's medically able to play, he must serve a five-game suspension for failing a drug test.

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Raymond Felton didn't practice Saturday because of a strained hamstring suffered in Wednesday night's game against the Wizards. Iman Shumpert, who sprained his right elbow in the same game, also sat out practice but worked out on the side.

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