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The suddenly thin and offensively-challenged New York Knicks may have a few reinforcements in the lineup as they host the Charlotte Bobcats Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. Amare Stoudemire and rookie Iman Shumpert are both possibilities to return to a Knicks lineup that struggled in Monday's 90-85 loss to the lowly Toronto Raptors.
Stoudemire has missed two straight games since spraining his left ankle in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, while Shumpert hasn't played since his Christmas Day NBA debut when he injured his right MCL. The 2-3 Knicks have been inconsistant so far this season, with poor offensive performances in their three defeats. In Monday's loss to the Raptors, Carmelo Anthony notched 35 points but needed 31 shots to do so. The Raptors opened up a large lead in the second quarter when Mike D'Antoni employed a lineup that included just one starter, Toney Douglas, and the Raptors jumped out to a 16-point lead while holding the Knicks scoreless for more than six minutes.
The return of Stoudemire and Shumpert gives D'Antoni almost his full rotation. Jared Jeffries is still sidelined due to injury, and Baron Davis has yet to play this season, but Stoudemire's return allows rookie forward Josh Harrellson to return to the bench. With veteran guard Mike Bibby struggling immensely in the early going -- with just one 3-point field goal to his credit all year -- Shumpert gives the Knicks sorely needed backcourt depth.
One of the league's youngest teams, the Bobcats are off to a shaky 1-4 start. Point guard D.J. Augustin is the team's leading scorer, but a lot of eyes will be on Charlotte's top draft pick this past summer, former UConn Husky standout Kemba Walker. Walker returns to Madison Square Garden for the first time since one of the great performances in Big East Tournament history last March, where his last-shot heroics helped spark the Huskies to a Big East title and eventually all the way to the National Championship. The Bronx native and former Rice High School standout is averaging 9.6 points and has yet to have a real breakout game. You can bet he'll be trying to make Wednesday's return to the Garden a memorable one.