Amar'e Stoudemire could return to the Knicks this week, but not without a stop in the NBDL. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Amar'e Stoudemire is inching closer towards a return to the Knicks, but he must first prove himself with New York's D-League team.
According to multiple reports, including one from the Knicks' website, Stoudemire will spend Tuesday working out and scrimmaging with the Erie BayHawks. Nate Taylor of the New York Times tweeted that Mike Woodson said he would have Stoudemire practice with the Knicks on Thursday if he can hold his own on Tuesday.
But will he be healthy enough to return for the Knicks' showdown against the Lakers in Los Angeles on Christmas Day? Apparently there is some doubt, as Knicks beat reporter Al Iannazzone of Newsday tweeted that Stoudemire said he doesn't know where the rumor came from that he will be ready to play Dec. 25.
The question of when he will return isn't perhaps as perplexing as how he will figure into the lineup whenever he does come back. ESPN had reported in November that Stoudemire would be fine with a bench role, a clear step-back for a player that signed a $100 million contract with New York in 2010.
Stoudemire underwent another knee surgery this year to deal with a ruptured cyst in his knee just before the season began. The Knicks have fared well without him, posting an 18-6 record through mid-December, good for first in the Eastern Conference.