GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Nothing hurts, Amar'e Stoudemire said.
And he wouldn't say he is "rusty; that's a harsh word," after missing the first 30 games of the Knicks' season while completing rehabilitation on a surgically repaired left knee.
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But coach Mike Woodson reported Wednesday that he "just got word that I need to back off" on Stoudemire's playing time after the 11th-year pro logged almost 28 minutes against Boston on Monday night.
"I shouldn't have done that," Woodson said. "He's still be on restriction at around the 20-minute range. No more than 22, 23 minutes. This is the long haul, guys. I feel good about what we've got here with [Marcus] Camby and Kurt [Thomas]. The doctors say we've got to limit [Stoudemire] and that's what we're going to have to do."
Stoudemire assured that he feels "great. I'm just taking the precautionary route. No setbacks, no injury or anything like that."
"I want to make sure I'm strong enough to play back-to-backs," Stoudemire said, and he will wait to determine his availability against Chicago "based on how I feel after the [Indiana] game. "It's hard for me to say. We're so competitive and we want to play, but we'll see how it goes."
In the four games since his return, Stoudemire has averaged 20.6 minutes, 10.0 points and 2.3 rebounds. But the limits on his playing time are a challenge for Woodson, who also is missing guards Raymond Felton (broken finger) and Iman Shumpert (still out with a surgically repaired knee) and forward Rasheed Wallace (foot stress fracture).
Shooting guard J.R. Smith, the team's second-leading scorer (16.9) in a sixth-man role, also was missing from practice Wednesday. Smith took 11 stitches above his eye after a collision during Monday night's game, and since "it was a contact day," Woodson said, "I didn't want to take a chance of him getting hit and that [wound] opening back up. Save him for the game. He will play [Thursday night]."
Thursday night's game matches the division leaders from the Atlantic (Knicks, 23-11) and Central (Indiana, 21-14). Indiana is coming off a victory over the 23-10 Heat, which is first in the Southeast. "They're playing well," Stoudemire said. "They had that big win against Miami. I expect those guys to be ready to go, and I expect we'll be ready to go as well."
For about 20 minutes, in his case.