If the occasion calls for breaking the unwritten rule about his maximum playing time, so be it. If circumstances demand ignoring doctors' orders to sit out the second half of back-to-back games, that's OK, too. At this stage in the season and his career, Amar'e Stoudemire figures there is no reason to leave anything in the tank.
In the past three games, he has averaged 18 points on 24-for-37 shooting (an impressive .649 percentage). He has started the past two games, each time playing more than 30 minutes, which had been considered the limit his surgically repaired knee could take. With the Knicks in a tailspin that threatened their slim hope to make the playoffs, he volunteered to play in Detroit Monday night after a game in Chicago Sunday afternoon, mindful that medical experts suggested he not play two days in a row.
There is no telling how much Stoudemire has left at 31, but he is determined to give all of it to a desperate team.
"It's been tough on everybody. Stat has had his ups and downs, as well, the last few years with his injuries," Mike Woodson said of Stoudemire. "But he just keeps fighting. That's what you've got to do. If you want to continue to play in this league, you've got to keep battling and putting forth the effort and hopefully good things will happen for you."
It is no secret that in the big scheme, Stoudemire's major contribution will be an expiring contract. His connection to the Knicks' future is the common knowledge that they will have more to spend once his money comes off the books in 2015.
By then, they probably will need someone to do what he did -- command enough credibility to help the team attract other big players. Stoudemire's presence made the club more appealing to Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler. All three have started together the past two games and are likely to keep doing so.
Stoudemire still shows flashes of what he used to do all the time. Against the Pistons Monday night, he took off in the lane and soared to hammer home a dunk. In one pivotal sequence Wednesday night, he blocked a shot and converted on a fast-break basket.
"You want to win. At this particular time, our back is against the wall. We can't fold right now," he said after a 118-106 victory in Minnesota Wednesday night that snapped a losing streak at seven games. "We've got to continue to play hard, so I feel that my energy . . . guys can feed off that."
Maybe most important, he is a standard-bearer for perseverance. In a dispiriting season, teammates can learn from someone whose many injuries included a detached retina that forced him to remain immobile for almost every minute of every day for weeks.
"It's a game of struggle," he said. "You're going to definitely struggle throughout your career. I think this year has been an unexpected struggle for us. We had high expectations going into the season. At the same time, it builds character. So you've got to stay optimistic and focused and positive about things and see if you can turn it around."