NEW YORK — Amare Stoudemire has a bulging disk in his back and is out indefinitely, a damaging blow to the New York Knicks with a month left in the regular season.
The Knicks weren't competitive in the playoffs last year when Stoudemire developed a back problem, and any hopes of even qualifying for the postseason are in jeopardy now that he has another one.
"You don't wish it on any player, especially Amare, who's a big part of what we do," Knicks interim coach Mike Woodson said Monday before the Knicks played the Milwaukee Bucks. "All we can is just hope that it's not as serious as it may be and that he has a speedy recovery."
Stoudemire sat out the fourth quarter of the Knicks' victory over Detroit on Saturday after he said his back tightened up. He said after the game he wasn't concerned and believed he would play Monday.
However, he didn't attend the Knicks' morning shootaround and had an MRI in the afternoon that revealed the injury. The Knicks said he doesn't need surgery and the injury will be treated with rehabilitation.
Point guard Jeremy Lin is also out because of a sore right knee, but Stoudemire's injury is the greater concern.
"He's a big piece of our puzzle," Woodson said. "I mean, we rely on Amare to do a lot of things, scoring and rebounding and playing defense for us."
Stoudemire was finally playing well recently. He struggled for the first half of this season, having not been able to play much during the offseason after injuring his back warming up for Game 2 of what became a first-round sweep against the Boston Celtics.
He seemed back on track since Woodson replaced Mike D'Antoni. Stoudemire has led the Knicks in scoring four straight games and had 17 points in 7-of-10 shooting in 26 minutes against the Pistons.
Stoudemire was not at the arena, instead traveling to Miami for a second opinion.
"If he has to have surgery, he's got to rehab and come back," Woodson said. "He's still a young player, he's got a lot of game still left in him, so we can just wish him nothing but the best."
The Knicks knew that giving Stoudemire a five-year contract worth nearly $100 million in 2010 was a risk because of his history of knee injuries. But the back has emerged as the greater problem in New York. Though teammates were just hearing the news and didn't want to rule him out for too long, Baron Davis had a similar injury in the offseason and couldn't get on the court until late last month.
Stoudemire put on too much muscle working out while not being able to play in the summer and lacked his usual explosiveness most of the season. But he seemed close to top form lately after losing some weight, averaging 19.3 points over the past four games.
"He's been on a tear as of late," guard Mike Bibby said. "Somebody's got to step up. We can't bring him back."
The Knicks hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference but may have trouble holding on with so many injuries. Already they have lost backup forward Jared Jeffries for perhaps two weeks with a sore right knee and went with a small lineup Monday of Davis, Iman Shumpert, Landry Fields, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler.
"I've got to step it up a notch," Anthony said.
Lin also sat out the fourth quarter Saturday, but it was thought he could have gone back in had the game been close. He took part in the morning shootaround and Woodson was surprised when he learned the point guard wouldn't be able to go.
"I went through it and I wasn't sure because in the morning everything was a little more sore," Lin said. "We came to the decision afterwards and figured it would be smart just to rest."
Lin is considered day to day. The Knicks play again Wednesday against Orlando.
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