The Knicks rang in the new year following an emphatic 114-92 win over the Kings in Sacramento, and will look to begin 2012 in the same fashion, hoping to come out with a victory against the Raptors tonight at home.
Unfortunately for orange and blue, it is looking more and more likely that the team may have to open up the year without the man who helped change their fortunes in 2011: Amar'e Stoudemire.
STAT, who sat out Saturday's victory with an ankle injury, is likely to be sidelined once again tonight, New York Post beat writer Marc Berman reports.
Coach Mike D'Antoni went on to say the chances of the Knicks' big man playing were "more on the doubtful side," as he was not participating in practice this morning.
The team made out just fine without Stoudemire over the weekend, with Tyson Chandler and Landry Fields both stepping up for 22 and 21 point performances. What's more, rookie Josh Harrellson got his first start, pouring in 14 points and 12 rebounds in place of STAT.
The trigger happy Harrellson spread the floor well on his way to hitting four three-pointers, the same way Stoudemire has begun to be encouraged to do so (a la Kevin Durant).
The Knicks big man otherwise known as "Jorts" has the kind of shot release that makes fans gasp in panic, yet exhale in relief as the ball goes into the basket. As noted, his pleasure in shooting the long ball fits right in to the Knicks' offense. It is a positive sign that he also showed he can be an effective NBA rebounder. The team can only hope Jorts will begin to prove consistent in that category, as it is one they sorely need strong contributions in. He will likely have that chance in a potential start once again tonight.
The Knicks' offense will likely run through Carmelo Anthony (who led the way with 23 points the other night) as it often has so far this season. Through Stoudemire's struggles and/or absence, Anthony has shown he is able to either carry the scoring load himself, or help create opportunities for his teammates to produce a more balanced attack. One is only left to ponder which 'Melo will show up tonight, but with Stoudemire sitting, it will truly be his team.
Harrellson and Chandler will have their hands full tonight trying to contain Andrea Bargnani, who can spread the floor and pull up for a jumper as well as any big man in the league. The 7'0 European, whom the Raptors hope will continue to break out as a potent offensive player, is averaging 23 points on 51% shooting from the field in four games this season.
The fundamentally sound Fields will likely have the task of guarding the athletic DeMar DeRozen, who new Raptors head coach Dwayne Casey hopes can evolve into an defensive star..
Casey, the defensive-minded coach who helped lead last season's Mavericks' championship winning D, (of course anchored by current Knick Tyson Chandler), has preached an entirely different defensive culture in Toronto. The Raptors are paced defensively by Amir Johnson.
Reserve guard Anthony Carter, who filled some big shoes by spelling the hobbled Chauncey Billups late last season and into the playoffs for the Knicks, will return to the Garden as a member of the Raptors.
Though Stoudemire is unlikely to be in uniform tonight for the Knicks, things do look promising for injured rookie Iman Shumpert, who could be returning to practice this week.