Stretching the Field: Loss of Stoudemire shouldn't concern Knicks

To go against conventional wisdom, a team is not always in harm's way when losing a vital piece to the puzzle.

Some squads rally for a fallen player and others the opposite. As far as the New York Knicks are concerned, they shouldn't have any doubts at succeeding minus expensive All-Star power forward Amare Stoudemire in the frontcourt.

Stoudemire was the first domino to fall in the Knicks' plans to build a winner once again in the Big Apple, and both Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler followed suit. Stoudemire played in 78 of a possible 82 regular-season games in 2010-11, proving to many that he wasn't washed up and still had some fuel left in the tank after eight seasons slugging it out for the Phoenix Suns.

Injuries are nothing new to any athlete and Stoudemire has enjoyed his fair share throughout his career.

Well, the injury bug made its way back to the former first-round draft pick in the form of a bulging disc in his back and the Knicks are expected to miss Stoudemire for two to four weeks. An MRI revealed the magnitude of the injury that was discovered in a win over Detroit this past weekend. An epidural for Stoudemire is next on the list.

That should be a cause for concern for the Knicks, right?

Not so fast, as college football analyst Lee Corso would quip.

New York is 6-1 this season when Stoudemire is decked out in street clothes and even won four in a row without him from Feb. 6-11. In fact, the only game the Knicks lost sans the one known as "Stat" was a 90-85 setback versus Toronto on Jan. 2. Former head coach Mike D'Antoni found ways to win without his former go-to guy from his Suns days, and now its interim coach Mike Woodson's turn to get behind the curtain and pull some strings.

"You don't wish it on any player, especially Amare, who is a big part of what we do," Woodson said following Monday's win over Milwaukee. "All we can do is just hope that it's not as serious as it may be and that he has a speedy recovery. But it gives our team, me as a coach an opportunity to look at other guys like Josh (Harrellson) and Jerome (Jordan). Guys like that gotta step in and play. We can't look back. We gotta continue to play and try to win games."

Woodson got it right in an 89-80 triumph over Milwaukee, using a different look with Landry Fields at forward and moving Anthony to the No. 4 spot in the lineup. It seemed 'Melo enjoyed playing further down low and registered a game-best 28 points.

Guard Jeremy Lin also missed the game with a sore knee for the Knicks, who are narrowly ahead of the Bucks for the eighth and final postseason spot in the Eastern Conference.

Stoudemire is averaging 17.6 points and 8.0 rebounds, and will rest his ailing back with no plans for surgery. With New York slated to play three games in the next four days and its playoff hopes hanging by a thread, now may not be the best time for Stoudemire to sit at the end of the bench. However, the Knicks are talented enough to overcome the odds, and have firmly established that playing with their top frontcourt piece on the pine is no sweat off the brow.

There are 16 games remaining on the compressed 66-game schedule and veteran guard Baron Davis is optimistic that Stoudemire will make a quick return to health under the watchful eye of the Knicks' training staff.

"He's a hard worker, he takes great care of his body and we have the best medical staff in the NBA and they're going to do everything in their power to make sure that he's (OK)," Davis said.

The Knicks, who own a 7-1 mark over the past eight contests and are holding their opponents to 86 points per game in that time, have a daunting stretch of games ahead against the likes of Orlando, Atlanta, Indiana, Chicago, Milwaukee, Miami and Boston. They can get it done with extensive help of some household names and a few who are unheralded.

Rushing Stoudemire back is not a reasonable alternative since the Knicks have achieved success this season without him. Plus, with Woodson working his newly found magic from the sideline and Anthony pumping in double digits in points the past 12 games, New York has a slight edge over the opposition.

When the playoffs arrive in late April, then maybe it will be time to thrust a rested Stoudemire back into the mix.