Amar'e Stoudemire wears protective boot to keep injured ankle healthy for p

Amar’e Stoudemire’s appearance on the bench in a gray suit in Newark on
Friday night was alarming enough. Then there was the fashion accessory
that no player wants to be wearing at this time of the season, the
matching gray boot he sported on his injured left leg.

"It’s for protection, to keep myself from moving the ankle," the Knicks’
power forward said. "It feels a lot better than it looks."

Stoudemire contends he will be 100% by the Knicks’ playoff opener
against Miami or Boston, "no question about it." But whether they’ll be
playing at maximum capability in their first playoff action since 2004
is now the major issue, with the opener only six or seven days away.

After another round of treatment Saturday, Stoudemire will miss his second straight game Sunday night in Indiana, where the Knicks hope to pad their slim lead over the Sixers for sixth place in the East, while also notching their first winning season since going 48-34 in 2001. A victory over the Pacers, who will finish No. 8, would mean the Knicks increase their winning streak to seven games and finish no worse than 42-40.

But the more pressing question is how much the Knicks will be set back during the time that Stoudemire has to sit out games and heal his sprained ankle.

"I don’t want to think about that," Mike D’Antoni admitted, walking out of the Rock on Friday after his team’s blowout win over the Nets. "The injury to Amar’e happened and we can’t change it. So you have to make the best of it. The good thing is, we get Amar’e rest. Now whether we’re set back by it, I hope not. We’ll just handle whatever comes along."

The Knicks felt they were starting to hit their stride, and Carmelo Anthony and Stoudemire were getting in a good rhythm, when Stoudemire sprained the ankle trying to chase down the Sixers’ Thaddeus Young Wednesday night in Philadelphia.

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