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2012 nba playoffs

Amar’e Stoudemire May Return This Weekend

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 03:  Amare Stoudemire #1 of the New York Knicks wears a sling on his left arm due to a cut on his hand against the Miami Heat in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 3, 2012 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

It certainly didn't sound like Amar'e Stoudemire had any prayer of recuperating from his self-inflicted, fire-extinguisher-related hand wound in time to participate in the remainder of this horrid Knicks–Heat series. Phrases like "half of his hand hanging off" and "blood squirting out" don't suggest a speedy recovery. Neither does this photo of the stitches (not for the faint of heart or stomach). Stoudemire, though, returned to the practice court today and actually ran some drills and hoisted some one-handed shots with his teammates. Speaking after the fact, Stoudemire called himself "doubtful" for Game 4, but insisted that he'd love to make a comeback before season's end. Based on the way things have been going, the season's probably going to conclude this weekend, so Game 4 could be his last chance to take the floor before another long off-season begins.

Stoudemire's explanation for attempting a last-minute comeback is laced with Amar'e–speak, but it rings pretty true:

“All the fans that stuck with me deserve to see me back on the court,” Stoudemire said. “But it’s mainly for my teammates, because they’re working their butts off all season, to be in this position to try to go to the next round. For the guys that may not be back next year, I want to make sure I still leave a great memory on the court with them before it’s all said and done. Hopefully we can get a win Sunday, take it to Miami for Wednesday.”

There's a point in there. Amar'e's had a pretty uniformly down year. Those who play close attention know about his lingering, mismanaged back injuries and the tragic loss of his brother in early February. Many fans, though, have just seen Amar'e's on-court performance, which has resembled a languid, diluted version of the explosive big man that the Knicks signed in 2010 and that leaped around the Garden for much of last season. All of his numbers have dropped, and his defense has been consistently limp. And after all that, he managed to make things worse by unleashing his frustration on an object that ended up returning the favor. That'd be insult to injury (or vice versa?) and an awful way to end a bad season. To head into the summer with fans and media questioning his value and scouring the league for trade options would really suck.

A return, then, might recoup Amar'e a bit of his reputation. Coming back would demonstrate his commitment, and hey — what if he could get some things done on the court and even help steal the Knicks a victory to extend the series? Wouldn't that ease the tension at least a little bit? Then again, he could return and struggle with just one fully functional hand, merely adding his name and face to the final gasps of what has been a sad, humiliating series against Miami. That seems far more likely and typical of recent events, but one never does know. How exciting!

Either way, don't expect a Jeremy Lin return, but be on the lookout for Amar'e's status going into this weekend ... you know, if you're still paying attention at this point.

Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images