Knicks coach Woodson says Amar’e Stoudemire ‘absolutely’ will play in the second round if he’s ready

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Despite Sunday’s result, the Knicks are well on their way to the second round of the playoffs. They have a 3-1 series lead on a Celtics team that struggles mightily to score in even moderate amounts.

New York could advance Wednesday when they return home to Madison Square Garden.

While the Knicks have had a relatively easy time of it against the depleted Celtics, things will get more difficult against more legitimate teams like the Pacers or the Heat in the later rounds of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

It makes sense, then, that the team’s head coach Mike Woodson wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to reinsert one of his capable star players into the lineup just as soon as he’s healthy enough to contribute.

From Al Innazzone of Newsday:

Amar’e Stoudemire, who had knee surgery March 11, said he could be ready in the second round. If he is, Mike Woodson said he “absolutely” will play. Woodson said he’s not worried about a disruption of the chemistry the Knicks have built in winning 19 of 21. “Not at all,” he said. “You guys worry about that. I don’t. I really don’t. He’s a big piece to our puzzle.”

Stoudemire was said to be out up to eight weeks at the time of the surgery, so if he sticks close to that timetable, that would have him back closer to the end of a second round series than the beginning.

But whenever he is ready, New York could certainly use the frontcourt depth.

The Knicks have been forced to go small due to the constraints of the roster, and only Kenyon Martin has been a legitimate big man option for New York off the bench. Stoudemire’s return would help immensely, especially in the next round against the Pacers or the Hawks, both of which feature two skilled big men in their respective starting lineups.

Stoudemire averaged 14.2 points and five rebounds, while playing 23.5 minutes per game in 29 appearances for the Knicks this season.