Amar'e Stoudemire loses the ball against Carlos Boozer and Derrick...

Amar'e Stoudemire loses the ball against Carlos Boozer and Derrick Rose. (Feb. 2, 2012) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Amar'e Stoudemire has a slight chance of returning before the end of the regular season. But it might be more realistic for him to return for the playoffs -- if the Knicks make them.

Stoudemire will not undergo surgery for the bulging disc in his back. He will receive nonsurgical treatment, including an epidural shot. The Knicks said he's expected to miss 2-4 weeks, depending on how he responds to the treatment.

There was fear that his season was over after he aggravated his back in Saturday's win over the Pistons. On Monday, an MRI revealed he had a bulging disc. Stoudemire flew to Miami that night to get a second opinion. Both doctors agreed he should not have surgery.

Stoudemire was at Madison Square Garden last night getting treatment but wasn't available for comment.

If Stoudemire had surgery, his season would be over. Now he has a chance to play again if he doesn't have any setbacks and the treatment works.

"That's always good news," Carmelo Anthony said. "I just want him to be healthy. That's the most important thing for him."

Stoudemire, the Knicks' second-leading scorer (17.6) and rebounder (8.0), has a history of back problems. He was hampered throughout last season and hurt himself in the playoff series against Boston during pregame warm-ups. He spent much of the offseason and lockout strengthening his back to avoid further issues.

It's most important that he's ready for the playoffs. The Knicks are 21/2 games ahead of Milwaukee for the last playoff spot. "We'll welcome him back as soon as he can get back out on the floor because we need him," interim coach Mike Woodson said. "He's a big piece of this puzzle."

The Knicks have 15 games left, including one against the Bucks in Milwaukee on April 11. The best-case scenario for the Knicks is that Stoudemire will be back that week.

But with his back history and the Knicks often playing four games a week, it might be asking a lot of him to handle that grind.

If he's out the full four weeks, he would return April 25, just in time for a regular season-ending back-to-back.

"First things first," Woodson said, "is getting him back healthy and us taking each game one at a time with the guys in uniform, pushing them to play at a high level to help us win because that's all we can do at this point."


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