The Knicks' season got even crazier Monday when the team announced that forward Amar'e Stoudemire will be out "indefinitely" after an MRI discovered a bulging disc in his back.
The news is a potentially devastating blow to the Knicks as they head into the final month of the season fighting to hang on to the eighth and final playoff spot. Stoudemire was not with the Knicks last night as they won a critical game against the ninth-place Milwaukee Bucks. Instead, he flew to Miami to get a second medical opinion.
"Amar'e is a big part of what we do," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said when asked about the impact of Stoudemire's absence. "All we can do is hope it's not as serious as it may be and that he has a speedy recovery."
Stoudemire was not the only starter to miss last night's game, which the Knicks won, 89-80, to take a 21/2 game lead over the Bucks. Point guard Jeremy Lin, who has a sore knee, also sat out. He is listed as day-to-day.
No one seems to be sure when Stoudemire, 29, will return. When asked if he will be ready to return by the playoffs, Woodson said, "Don't know." He did not rule out surgery.
"If he has to have surgery, he's got to rehab and come back," Woodson said. "He's still a young player, he's got a lot of game still left in him, so we can just wish him nothing but the best."
Stoudemire and Lin had to leave the game in the second half of Saturday's 101-79 win over the Detroit Pistons, though Lin said Monday that his knee had been bothering him for a couple of games.
The Knicks struggled in last year's first-round playoff series against Boston after Stoudemire pulled a muscle in his back. He spent most of the lengthy lockout rehabbing the injury.
Stoudemire struggled early this season amid conjecture that his back still was bothering him. After Woodson replaced Mike D'Antoni, however, he began to look like the dominant player he had been much of last season. In his last five games, Stoudemire averaged 18 points, shooting 57 percent from the field.
Stoudemire's teammates were stunned when told by reporters that their co-captain is out indefinitely.
"Hopefully, the second opinion is something," said Carmelo Anthony, who was acquired by the Knicks last season to play alongside Stoudemire. "Since he was out all summer rehabbing it and getting treatment on it, I'm hoping it's not too serious at this point. My prayers go out to him, and hopefully, we get him back as soon as possible."
The injury puts a lot of pressure to get creative on Woodson, who is auditioning to keep his job beyond this season. Woodson, who is 7-1 as interim coach, had to replace two starters. He opened the game with Baron Davis at point guard. Iman Shumpert started at two-guard with Landry Fields, Anthony and Tyson Chandler rounding out the starting five.
"It's tough missing two great players," Fields said before the game. "But it's a chance for other guys to step up."