NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Knicks thrived after power forward Amar’e Stoudemire went down in March, and they are doing just fine without him in the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Celtics.

Up 2-0 in the series, the Knicks have a great opportunity to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the first time since 2000.

And if they get there, Stoudemire might be able to return to the court alongside his teammates.

“If everything goes great (with rehabilitation), then I’m willing to play,” the six-time All-Star told reporters. “Sooner than later, hopefully, if everything continues to improve.”

The 30-year-old underwent right knee debridement surgery on March 11 and hasn’t appeared in a game since March 7. Following his surgery, the big man was expected to be on the sidelines for four to six weeks.

Stoudemire is making progress, though he’s still taking a relatively conservative and patient approach to returning.

“Everything’s on schedule for the most part,” Stoudemire said. “I’ve got to continue to get stronger, got to get back on the court, start moving around at full speed … And if I can handle that, then we go up a notch — that’s great. Then I’m looking (forward to) hopefully playing soon. We’ll see.”

Knicks coach Mike Woodson is not too concerned about the 6-foot-11, 245-pounder disrupting the team’s chemistry. He’s made it clear that if Stoudemire is healthy and able to contribute, then he’ll be on the floor.

Simple as that.

“If he’s able to make it back, he will be back in the rotation, ready to play,” Woodson said. “I’m expecting him to do what he was doing before he left. He played some pretty good, positive minutes for our ballclub before he got hurt.”

The former first-round pick of the Suns appeared in just 29 games for the Atlantic Division-winning Knicks this season, and didn’t start in any. He was productive when he played, however, averaging 14.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 0.7 blocks in 23.5 minutes per game.

“Amar’e is going to always be a big piece of our team, that’s without a doubt,” Woodson said. “He’s progressing right along. When he’s going to play, I don’t know at this point. (A healthy Stoudemire) just adds one more good piece — great piece — to the puzzle back out on the floor as we continue this journey.”

Game 3 of the Knicks-Celtics series will tip off at 8:00 p.m. in Boston on Friday night.

Would you welcome him back, Knicks fans, or would his return destroy the team’s chemistry? Let us know in the comments section below…


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