Washington Wizards v New York Knicks

Amar’e Stoudemire says Mike Woodson, not minutes limit, keeping him off the court

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Amar’e Stoudemire began the season on a minutes limit after undergoing two knee surgeries last year.

Through five games, he was averaging fewer than five minutes per game. Since, his playing time steadily ticked upward, peaking at nearly 20 minutes per game.

Then, Stoudemire missed seven games with an ankle injury. In two games since returning, he’s played just four and 17 minutes.

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But Stoudemire said Mike Woodson, not a medically determined minutes limit, is holding him back this time.

Stoudemire, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com:

“From a doctor’s standpoint, there hasn’t been limitations since the first week of the season,” Stoudemire said when asked if he wanted to throw out any minutes limitations in an effort to help the New York Knicks make the playoffs. “So we can’t keep saying limitations — that’s a coach’s decision at the end of the day.

“I feel great,” he continued. “I am ready to play. But it’s up to him if he wants to play me or not.”

“Yeah, I talk to Coach all the time about it,” Stoudemire said. “He knows I am ready. He knows how hard I train. He watches me in the weight room and also on the basketball court. The whole training staff knows, the Knicks organization knows how hard I train.

Stoudemire might not have his playing cut directly because of injury, but that’s the primary factor. He’s 31 and has a lot of mileage on him. He’s just no longer the same player he once was.

Tyson Chandler is – by far – the Knicks’ best big man, and they also function best with a small-ball lineup. That’s partially because Carmelo Anthony has become a better power forward than small forward and partially because New York’s traditional power forwards – Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani and Kenyon Martin – just aren’t that good anymore.

Unlike last season, when he was an offensive force in his limited minutes, Stoudemire  is now a backup who plays like a backup. Stoudemire deserves the role he has on this team, because he’s healthy. If he were still hobbled, he probably should play even less than he does.

Like with Carlos Boozer yesterday, I have no problem with Stoudemire saying he wants more minutes. As a competitor, he should want more minutes. He talked to his coach about it, and that’s the key step. At this point, there’s no harm in him sharing his desires with the public.

It’s just not in the Knicks’ best interest to give Stoudemire a larger role, and that – not a minutes limit – is really all this comes down to.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. 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 Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.