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Slow-starting Knicks hope for spark of Stoudemire's return

Amar'e Stoudemire

Amar'e Stoudemire Photo Credit: Amar'e Stoudemire (Getty Images)

After opening the season on Christmas Day with a rousing comeback victory over the Celtics, it's been generally downhill for the Knicks.

They're 2-3 and struggling, not just with their long-range shooting, but with their inside game in the absence of forward Amar'e Stoudemire, whose swollen left ankle has cost him the last two games.

There is a possibility, according to coach Mike D'Antoni, that both Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert, out since the opener with a sprained right MCL, could return in time for tonight's game at Charlotte (1-3).

Shumpert scored 11 points on 3-for-13 shooting in 22 minutes during the opener. The rookie guard's problems with accuracy might have foretold the issues that would beset the Knicks in the following days, as the problem reached a climax in Monday's 90-85 loss to the Raptors.

The Knicks went 10-for-35 beyond the arc, with leading scorer Carmelo Anthony missing a 3-pointer that would have tied the game with 10.7 seconds left.

Anthony finished that game with 35 points, but it took him a ragged 13-of-31 performance to do it. As of now, he's the Knicks' only real scoring option.

Having Stoudemire back, even as he feels his way around new center Tyson Chandler, would give the losers of three of the last four games a legitimate second scoring option. And Stoudemire can't wait to get back into action.

"I feel good," Stoudemire said after a light workout Tuesday.

He is still a game-time decision.

Part of the problem is a lack of quality depth necessary to excel in a short season. Stoudemire's replacement, rookie Josh Harrellson, followed a double-double that sparked the New Year's Eve win in Sacramento with a two-point outing that included an 0-for-4 effort from 3-point range.

The good news is that the rest of the Atlantic Division hasn't exactly started fast, either. Division leader Boston is just 3-3, though the Celtics are on a three-game winning streak. Philadelphia is 2-2, while Toronto and the Knicks are tied for third at 2-3.

The Nets sit last at 1-5.

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