Knicks power forward Amar’e Stoudemire (bulging disk, lower back) will start after missing the last 13 games, but “won’t play big minutes,” according to coach Mike Woodson. “Amar’e is like a little kid today, running around the court in uniform, because he’s so excited to be back,” Woodson said. “I’ve got to watch how much I use him tonight, but as we get closer to the playoffs, we’ll go along and try to build his minutes up.” New York went 9-4 without Stoudemire, who last played on March 24 against Detroit. The six-time NBA All-Star is averaging 17.6 points and 8.0 rebounds in 43 games.
With Stoudemire back in action, Knicks small forward Landry Fields is heading to the bench. Point guard Mike Bibby, shooting guard Iman Shumpert, center Tyson Chandler, and small forward Carmelo Anthony remain in New York’s first five. “Iman has made a defensive presence – not that Landry can’t do that – but we like the look that Iman gives us,” Woodson explained. Point guard Baron Davis (stomach virus) was initially announced as a starter, but was a last-minute scratch for the second game in a row.
The Knicks signed longtime Bucks center Dan Gadzuric to a free-agent contract, releasing small forward Bill Walker to make room for him on the 15-man roster. Gadzuric, 34, will be in uniform and available to play. “It depends how the game goes,” Woodson said. “Right now, we’ve just got to get him acclimated to what we’re doing.” Gadzuric, who appeared in 42 games with the Warriors and Nets during the 2010-2011 season, was added to fill the role of ailing center Jared Jeffries (right knee soreness).
Cleveland center Anderson Varejao (right wrist fracture) was officially declared out for the season by coach Byron Scott. The mop-topped “Wild Thing” was injured on Feb. 10 against Milwaukee when Bucks center Drew Gooden accidentally struck his wrist while battling for a rebound. “I was trying really hard, but (the wrist) was still really sore and in a lot of pain,” said Varejao, who plays on playing for Brazil in the Summer Olympics. The Cavaliers are 10-26 since Varejao went down.
Cleveland swingman Alonzo Gee (left ankle sprain) will sit out his third straight game, allowing shooting guard Manny Harris to make his second start in a row. The remainder of the Cavaliers’ lineup is point guard Kyrie Irving, small forward Anthony Parker, power forward Antawn Jamison, and center Tristan Thompson.
New York’s inactives are point guard Jeremy Lin (left knee meniscus tear) and Jeffries, while Cleveland will not dress Varejao, Gee, center Semih Erden (right ankle sprain), and shooting guard Daniel “Boobie” Gibson (season-ending left foot tendon surgery). Davis remains in the Knicks locker room at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Cavaliers’ roster is down to 14 players after they opted not to pick up shooting guard Lester Hudson for the rest of the season. Hudson, whose second 10-day contract with Cleveland expired Wednesday, subsequently signed with the Memphis Grizzlies. He averaged 12.7 points in 13 games with the Cavaliers.
Pacers point guard Darren Collison (groin soreness) is out for the second straight game, but Indiana coach Frank Vogel said he expects him to play Friday at home against the Cavaliers. “Darren went through shootaround and I thought he would be able to go tonight, but he’s still a little tender,” Vogel said. “We definitely want him back, but we need him to be 100 percent healthy when he comes back.” Fourth-year pro George Hill will make his second start of the season in Collison’s place, having collected 18 points, four assists and no turnovers Monday in a 103-98 home win over Toronto.
The Cavaliers are again without the services of rookie point guard Kyrie Irving (right shoulder sprain), center Anderson Varejao (right wrist fracture), and shooting guard Daniel Gibson (season-ending left foot tendon surgery). Top overall draft pick Irving will miss his fifth game in a row, while Varejao has not played since being hurt on Feb. 10 against Milwaukee. Cleveland coach Byron Scott said, “If I had to guess on both guys, I’d probably definitely say they’ll be out for Friday and Saturday.”
Cavaliers shooting guard Lester Hudson — playing on his second 10-day contract with Cleveland — is averaging 24.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists over his last three games. “He’s been their best player the last three games, especially on this court where they’ve kind of fallen in love with him,” Vogel said. Hudson was a 2009 second-round draft choice by Boston, who had been playing with the Austin Toros in the NBA D-League.
Indiana’s starters are center Roy Hibbert, power forward David West, small forward Danny Granger, shooting guard Paul George, and Hill. The Pacers have used an NBA-low three different lineups this season. Indiana center Kyrylo Fesenko (illness) is inactive, while Collison will be in uniform but not play.
The Cavaliers’ lineup consists of center Tristan Thompson, power forward Antawn Jamison, small forward AlonzoGee, shooting guard Anthony Parker, and point guard Donald Sloan. That quintet combined for 59 points and 13 assists Tuesday in a 103-90 home victory over Charlotte.
Bucks small forward Carlos Delfino (right groin strain) and center Kwame Brown (torn pectoral) are out, but power forward Ersan Ilyasova (back spasms) returns after missing one game. Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles said Delfino is “feeling a little bit better today, but I have no idea if he’ll be ready to go tomorrow. I’m not sure if 24 hours will make a difference.” Delfino, who injured his groin Monday at New York, is sitting out his second straight contest.
Milwaukee will start Ilyasova, center Drew Gooden, small forward Luc Mbah a Moute, shooting guard Monta Ellis, and point guard Brandon Jennings. Former Cavaliers fan favorite Gooden has two triple-doubles in his last three games against Cleveland. “They should have never traded me,” Gooden said, laughing. “Nah, I’m just playing. Our team had it going both times, so I was picking up a lot of assists.”
Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao (right wrist fracture) participated in the morning shootaround, but remains in a brace and has not been medically cleared to return to practice. The mop-topped Brazilian had his wrist accidentally broken by Gooden while they were battling for a rebound on Feb. 10 in Cleveland — and will miss his 24th consecutive contest tonight. “I feel terrible that happened,” Gooden said.
The Bucks enter the evening 2 1/2 games behind New York in the race for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff berth. Milwaukee has 16 contests left, while the Knicks are down to their last 15 games. “This one is going to be tough tonight,” Skiles said. “The Cavaliers are going through a tough stretch from a win-loss standpoint right now, but they’re still playing hard.”
Cleveland’s starting lineup is point guard Kyrie Irving, shooting guard Anthony Parker, small forward Alonzo Gee, power forward Antawn Jamison, and center Tristan Thompson. The Cavaliers have lost five straight games — one shy of their longest skid of the season — and have dropped their last four contests at Quicken Loans Arena.
Rookie of the Year frontrunner Irving has moved up to 18th in the NBA in assists (5.7) and is 21st in scoring (18.7). “Point guard is the most difficult position to come into the league and play because you’re making so many decisions right off the bat, but there are a lot of games where it doesn’t seem hard for Kyrie,” Skiles said.
The Cavaliers signed shooting guard Lester Hudson to a 10-day contract, increasing their roster to the NBA maximum of 15 players. Hudson, a second-round pick by Boston in the 2009 NBA Draft, was averaging 17.6 points in five games for the Austin Toros in the NBA D-League.
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