When Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert come back, it's deep trouble for Knicks' opponents

Amar'e Stoudemire shoots during the Knicks training camp Amar'e Stoudemire shoots during the Knicks training camp practice. (Oct. 12, 2012) Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- As the Knicks shot around after practice Saturday, Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert did conditioning drills on a far court.

When Stoudemire and Shumpert will practice or play in a game remains unclear. But the Knicks are playing well without the two potential starters and closers, and they think the rest of the league should watch out when they return.

"When those two guys get back, all hell will break loose," J.R. Smith said. "The toughest job is probably going to be on Coach -- who to play, what positions and situations.

"As players, we got to be professional about it when they come back. Guys' minutes are going to be cut. We just have to be professional about it and understand we all have the same goal."

There is no mistaking how focused and driven the Knicks have been. They take an 11-4 record into Sunday afternoon's game against Phoenix.

The Knicks have won their last two games without Jason Kidd, who will be out again Sunday because of lower back spasms, and with Marcus Camby playing sparingly.

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Camby is handling it like a true professional. Asked if he's frustrated about not being in the rotation, he responded, "11 and 4. 11 and 4. 11 and 4."

Still, Mike Woodson will have some maneuvering to do when Stoudemire and Shumpert come back from knee surgeries.

Stoudemire could return toward the end of the month and Shumpert said he'll be back sometime in January. Woodson probably will bring them both off the bench at the outset, but both could work their way into the starting lineup.

"This is the deepest team I've ever coached," Woodson said. "It's going to be up to me to manage it and make sure that guys stay healthy and everybody's on board as a team to help us win. At the end of the day, that's what it's all about."

He added, "It's good to see Amar'e back out dribbling the ball, running a little bit. [Shumpert] has basically been doing all the conditioning and therapy work he needs to do. But he's still not ready to play basketball. All we can do is take it a day at a time and patiently wait, because I don't think either one of them needs to be rushed at this particular time."

The Knicks have been playing together on both ends of the court. Smith and Raymond Felton have helped pick up some of the scoring in Stoudemire's absence and Pablo Prigioni has been a good floor general playing extended minutes in Kidd's absence.

Carmelo Anthony is receiving credit for playing a more complete game. Smith, who played 41/2 seasons with Anthony with the Nuggets, said both have realized they need to do more than score.

"Just our moving the ball and our effort on defense has been great," Smith said. "It's changed in the [five years] together to now. He's 10 years in, I'm nine years in. I think we're really starting to understand and get it.

"We really want to win. We think this is going to be our best chance to win as of yet. We've had great teams throughout our career, but this without a doubt has been our deepest and our best team."

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Smith thinks the best is yet to come.

Notes & quotes:Argentine national coach Julio Lamas was at Knicks practice to see Prigioni. They were planning to meet up with Suns big man and Argentina forward Luis Scola Saturday.

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