Timberwolves-Knicks Preview


Amare Stoudemire appears ready to finally take the court for the New York Knicks. Just when that will be remains to be seen.

His season debut could come as early as Sunday when the Knicks host the Minnesota Timberwolves, who will be without starting forward Kevin Love.

Recovering from knee surgery, Stoudemire practiced for the first time this week and was happy with his progress. Coach Mike Woodson intended to talk with Stoudemire on Saturday and did not rule out the possibility that he could play Sunday when the Knicks (19-7) conclude a six-game homestand.

The team also could wait to play him during a three-game trip that begins against the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas Day.

"I still don't know yet," Woodson told the NBA's official website. "I will sit down and talk and just kind of map out and see where he is."

For the first time in six seasons, the 6-foot-10 Stoudemire failed to average at least 20 points (17.5) and 8.0 rebounds (7.8) while various injuries limited him to 47 games on the condensed 2011-12 schedule. With the Knicks off to a strong start, it's uncertain what his immediate role will be.

The six-time All-Star said he would come off the bench if needed.

"Whatever it takes to win, that's the goal," Stoudemire said.

With or without Stoudemire, New York's immediate goal is to avoid losing two straight at MSG for the first time since a four-game skid Jan. 16-21. Since that slide, the Knicks have won 31 of 39 at home, including the playoffs.

New York started 10-0 at home before former Knick Jeremy Lin and the Rockets won 109-96 there Monday. The Knicks bounced back with a 100-86 victory over Brooklyn on Wednesday but shot 41.8 percent in a 110-106 loss to Chicago on Friday.

Woodson and Carmelo Anthony were ejected for each drawing two technical fouls, as was Tyson Chandler for his scuffle with Chicago's Joakim Noah. The Knicks missed 10 of their first 11 shots and were unable to overcome a 25-point second-half deficit despite scoring 45 in the fourth quarter.

"Bad coaching," Woodson said. "We'll get through this and regroup and get ready for Sunday's game."

Anthony, who averaged 35.0 points and shot 55.3 percent in his previous four contests, finished with 29 despite going 10 of 25 from the field Friday in his second game since missing two with an ankle injury.

A strained groin kept Anthony out of New York's 100-98 win at Minnesota on Feb. 11. The Knicks have won two in a row and three of four against the Timberwolves at MSG and won't have to deal with Love in this matchup.

Love did not make the trip to New York after suffering an eye injury in Thursday's win over Oklahoma City.

"You can't do anything about it," coach Rick Adelman told the team's official website. "It's just an unfortunate thing that happened towards the end of the game. All I know is that he can't play, and that he's got to be careful the next few days. He can't do anything that causes pressure in his eye."

Adelman didn't confirm if Dante Cunningham or Derrick Williams will get the start at power forward in Love's place.

Minnesota (13-11) has won seven of 10, but all three losses during that stretch came on the road, where it's 5-8. The Timberwolves, however, avoided a third straight defeat with a 99-93 victory Thursday.

J.J. Barea scored 14 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, Love added 28 with 11 rebounds while Nikola Pekovic scored 24 and pulled down 10 boards for the Timberwolves. Minnesota held the Western Conference-leading Thunder to 40.2 percent shooting.

"It's important,'' Adelman said of beating one of the NBA's top teams. "But I would like to see us get to a point where this is not a big deal. It's a big game against the best team, but this is something we can do.''

What the Timberwolves need is to carry over that strong defensive effort on the road where they've allowed 102.8 points on 51.7 percent shooting while losing three of four.