GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) — The New York Knicks are close to getting back some sorely needed scoring punch.
Amare Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert could return from injuries Wednesday, two nights after the Knicks struggled to find any offense beyond Carmelo Anthony while digging themselves a huge first-half hole in a 90-85 loss to Toronto.
Stoudemire and Shumpert took part in a light practice Tuesday and then played in a 3-on-3 workout on a short court. The Knicks say both players will be game-time decisions against Charlotte.
“I can’t wait,” Stoudemire said. “It was tough watching last night, so I can’t wait to get back out there to really give us that push that we need.”
Stoudemire has missed two straight games with a sprained left ankle, while Shumpert has been sidelined since spraining a right knee ligament in the season opener on Christmas. Without them, the Knicks shot just 36 percent Monday.
New York is averaging 93 points, wasting its improved defensive performance. Coach Mike D’Antoni knows his team must play better but believes injuries have made that difficult, noting the lineups he had on the floor at certain times against the Raptors.
“I know we played bad, we didn’t play great. And I know we lost a game we should have won,” he said. “But again, we’ve just got to hang in there, get through this period, get guys healthy, and then see what holes we have and see what we have to add to fix them.
“We had an 11-point (second) quarter,” he added. “And if you look at guys, we just didn’t have a scorer out there, and when Amare comes back, that’s taken care of.”
Stoudemire, despite struggling in his first three games, still averages 17 points. The Knicks have been starting second-rounder Josh Harrellson in place of the All-Star forward.
Shumpert, their first-round pick, seems well ahead of schedule. The Knicks said he could miss two to four weeks when he was hurt by Boston’s Chris Wilcox crashing into his knee after scoring 11 points in his NBA debut.
But Shumpert always figured he could beat that timetable and believes after pushing himself before and after the practice Tuesday that he still will.
“I’m young,” the 21-year-old guard said. “I’m pretty healthy all the time, so I’ve bounced back from some injuries pretty quick. I was kind of leaning on my youth to get me back quick, and I don’t have any pain today. We’ll see how it feels tomorrow.”
Shumpert can play either guard spot. D’Antoni tried to downplay expectations given how little NBA action Shumpert has seen, but with Baron Davis still not ready and guard play a weakness, the Knicks need whatever the rookie can give them.
“Iman, believe it or not, he’s kind of a game-changer for us coming off the bench, the energy that he brings, offensively, defensively,” Anthony said. “Still a long a way to go for him, still a learning process for him, but for the most part that’s something that we’ve been missing, that energy level coming off the bench. He brings that, so we’re excited to have him back.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.