So, the Knicks won't have Carmelo Anthony tonight, which really sucks for the Knicks. New York's played enough games without Anthony this season to have a decent idea of the challenges and solutions associated with his absence, but this is the first time since last year they've played sans Melo with Amar'e Stoudemire available.
Still, tonight's game in Indiana probably won't be Amar'e's chance to play a bigger role. He actually already got that chance and it didn't go so well. After several straight games of twentyish minutes per, Mike Woodson spun Stoudemire for 28 whole minutes on Monday against the Celtics, including almost the entire fourth quarter. The Knicks bombed that final period, and the extra playing time for Stoudemire also sounded some alarms for team doctors:
"I just got word that I needed to back off because I shouldn't have done that," Woodson said. "His minutes will still be on a restriction. Probably around the 20 mark range. Somewhere in that area there. No more than 22-23 minutes."
Woodson added, "No setback but he was probably a little sore. That's the reason for it."
The distinction between "soreness" and "setback" is crucial. Stoudemire's not reinjured or anything; it was just too much, too fast. Stoudemire downplayed the soreness and the curbed minutes at shootaround today (though he doesn't appear to have contradicted anything Woodson said, as the article suggests) but you can expect to see him come off the bench and play less than half tonight's game. Whether those minutes come in the fourth quarter remains to be seen. It's hard to imagine Woodson leaning too hard on Stoudemire in crunch time considering his rust and defensive crappiness, but the fourth quarter minutes against Boston didn't make much sense either, so we'll see.
Chris Copeland is expected to start in Anthony's place and, well, we'll see how this goes. The Pacers are hot as hell and the Knicks are slumping and depleted, but New York's previously shown a remarkable ability to right itself from a slide.