By Ben Golliver
Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire, sidelined since late-October after undergoing a procedure on his surgically repaired left knee, has been cleared to return to practice.
CBSSports.com reported that Knicks coach Mike Woodson told reporters prior to a Monday night game against the Rockets that Stoudemire officially took that step in his recovery process, and that the forward would join the Erie BayHawks, the Knicks' D-League affiliate, to get in his practice repetitions.
The Associated Press reports that Woodson wasn't ready to specify a timeline for Stoudemire's return to the court, saying only that he "wouldn't rush" things.
Without Stoudemire, the Knicks are off to an 18-5 start, shifting Carmelo Anthony to the power forward position and surrounding him with shooter-heavy small ball lineups. As a result, New York ranks No. 2 in the league in offensive efficiency.
There has been some consternation that Stoudemire will disrupt the Knicks' offensive attack once he's inserted back into the lineup. He got out in front of that talk in late-November, when it was reported that he would be open to a bench role once he returns.
Stoudemire was originally diagnosed with a ruptured popliteal cyst in his left knee back in October. According to the Mayo Clinic, popliteal cysts, also known as Baker’s cysts, are marked by an excess of fluid build-up in the back of the knee which can cause pain, swelling or tightness. They can be caused by arthritis or cartilage damage, among other knee joint problems.
After seeking a second opinion on the injured knee, Stoudemire's recovery timeline was extended to six weeks. A few days later, it was pushed back to six-to-eight weeks after Stoudemire underwent a debridement on his left knee.
Stoudemire underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee in October 2005, a procedure that forced him to miss virtually all of the 2005-06 season. Nevertheless, he came back to play all 82 games in 2006-07 and eventually played well enough for the Phoenix Suns that the Knicks gave him a five-year, $100 million contract during the summer of 2010. Stoudemire is on the books this season for $19.9 million and will be paid $22.4 million in 2013-14 and $24.4 million in 2014-15. Stoudemire, 29, appeared in just one preseason game, scoring 18 points and grabbing five rebounds in 27 minutes against the Raptors. The Knicks cited his left knee in explaining his preseason absences. He averaged 17.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists last season.