TARRYTOWN, NY - Wiping the sweat off his face after practice with the Erie BayHawks, NBA superstar Amar'e Stoudemire said he feels good about his health as he prepares to return to the New York Knicks.
"It was nice to be able to compete with some of the other guys (on the BayHawks)," Stoudemire said. "It was a great practice for me. I'm not where I want to be at this point, but I just want to keep improving."
Stoudemire, a six-time NBA All-Star and former Rookie of the Year, has been sidelined with the Knicks this season dealing with a knee injury. On Tuesday the Knicks assigned Stoudemire to their NBA affiliate, the Erie BayHawks, as the power forward rehabs his way back into NBA action.
The BayHawks joined Stoudemire at the Knicks training facility in Tarrytown, NY for practice Tuesday. He spent the session mostly running pick-and-roll drills with the BayHawks and spent several moments guarding just about every player on the BayHawks roster.
Stoudemire said spending time with the D-League team has been a solid way to transition his way back into the Knicks lineup, a benefit of having the BayHawks as an affiliate.
"Both our D-League team and the Knicks have the same coverage defensively," Stoudemire said. "We play similarly offensively. So it's been easy for me to fit right in."
Knicks coach Mike Woodson paced up and down the gym floor with BayHawks coach Gene Cross during practice as they watched Amar'e Stoudemire run through the drills.
"I haven't seen a good practice like that in a long time," Woodson said with a chuckle. "I just enjoyed sitting back and watching him practice."
Woodson said he was pleased with Stoudemire's first day back in action.
"He moved around pretty well," Woodson said. "He got up and down the floor. That was the whole thing, where he could get some practice time where he could bang, cut and shoot and do some other things you gotta do when you're on the basketball floor."
Woodson said he's approaching the situation with caution as far as when he expects Stoudemire to return to the Knicks. For now, Woodson said, Stoudemire will practice again with the BayHawks on Wednesday and take it from there.
Stoudemire said although his time with the BayHawks so far has been limited to Tuesday's practice session, he was impressed with many of the people on their team, including the BayHawks' big man Henry Sims. The center from Georgetown is averaging 16.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game with the BayHawks and went through training camp with the Knicks before the season started.
"Those guys (on the BayHawks) were really focused out there and they're a really solid team," Stoudemire said. "I've played with Henry in training camp and a few of the other guys on that team. Most of those guys there are really just trying to improve and get to the NBA."
Stoudemire's superstar teammate Carmelo Anthony said he was happy to see him back in action after being sidelined for so long. Stoudemire's return will only boost the Knicks even further as the team continues to stay on top as the best team in the Eastern Conference.
"Everybody is getting healthy and to where they need to be," Anthony said. "So I'm excited about that. There's a lot of light at the end of the tunnel. Just to see a lot of our guys on their way back, it's going to bring something even more to our team."
Anthony added he knows how frustrated Stoudemire is not being able to get back into NBA action, but told him he should be patient in rehabbing himself to full health.
"I saw him this morning and I know he was scrimmaging on the court with the guys," Anthony said. "I told him 'Don't try to get it all back in one day.' It's going to take some time to see what you can do."
For now, Stoudemire said practicing with the BayHawks has been great because it allows him to truly evaluate what kind of shape he is in as he prepares for his return to the Knicks.
"For those guys to be here practicing with me has been a great thing for myself," Stoudemire said. "It's allowed me to understand where I'm at physically and what I can bring to the table as of right now. Itís been a great workout for myself and hopefully I can continue to improve."