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Amar'e Stoudemire expects to regain All-Star form

Amar'e Stoudemire warms up before a game against

Amar'e Stoudemire warms up before a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Madison Square Garden. (Dec. 13, 2012) Credit: Jim McIsaac

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Amar'e Stoudemire grabbed a pass on a high pick-and-roll and threw down a monster dunk. Later, he hit a turnaround jumper, and swatted a layup off the referee's head and out of bounds.

Stoudemire said that was just a little preview of what to expect when he rejoins the Knicks. He believes he will return to his All-Star form after undergoing surgery on his left knee seven weeks ago. But he's not ready yet.

"I'm on pace to return back to dominance," Stoudemire said Thursday. "It's a matter of becoming 100 percent. When I'm healthy, I feel like I'm back to my dominant self."

Stoudemire looked good and showed some of his trademark explosiveness in his second scrimmage with the Erie BayHawks of the D-League. Toward the end of it, coach Mike Woodson called Stoudemire over and told him it was enough.

The Knicks and Stoudemire, a six-time All-Star who has averaged 21.6 points in his career, are continuing to take it slowly. The Knicks own the East's top mark at 19-6 so there's no need to rush him back. He won't play in the next two games at least as the Knicks conclude a six-game homestand against Chicago and Minnesota. It's possible he can return on next week's West Coast trip.

"I'm not quite ready yet," he said. "Takes a little more time to get 100 percent. Hopefully I'll be back soon enough. But there is no target date yet."

The Knicks, who host the Bulls tonight, can wait on Stoudemire. They're dreaming of a championship and don't want Stoudemire to have any setbacks that cost him more time. Stoudemire feels the same way.

"The most important factor is that we're winning," Stoudemire said. "That allows me to have a little more patience than if we were losing. I can see light at the end of the tunnel. I can see that my health is getting better and better [every] day. That being said, there's confidence knowing I'll be 100 percent soon."

He said he still felt some soreness in his knee but said he felt better than after Tuesday's first practice with Erie.

Woodson called it "a wonderful sign" that Stoudemire was able to practice again. His next steps are working out with the Knicks and getting more comfortable playing on his knee.

"He still has to do his conditioning work and do the things he needs to do to stay where he is," Woodson said. "When I can find a day to practice I'm going to do that to try and help him."

The Knicks' next full practice may not come until after the three-game trip, but Stoudemire could play 3-on-3 at shootarounds to get him ready.

"I just know I need a little more time," Stoudemire said. "I want to make sure I'm 100 percent and ready to give my all on the basketball court once I get out there and play at a high level. My goal is to return to my dominant self and that's what I'm on pace to do."

Woodson said he would address how he will use Stoudemire, as a starter or reserve, when he's ready to play. Woodson said he hasn't had that talk with Stoudemire yet. "But it's coming," Woodson said, "because he's getting close."

Notes & quotes: Carmelo Anthony's bruised left ankle was fine after playing Wednesday, Woodson said . . . Steve Novak, who missed the Nets game with the flu, returned and is likely to play Friday night. Rasheed Wallace (foot) and Marcus Camby (foot) aren't expected to play . . . Iman Shumpert (left knee surgery) did conditioning drills with Erie but no contact.

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