How will this affect a Knick team that's off to a "blazing" start?
Tip-off is scheduled for Tuesday, January 1st at Madison Square Garden in New York,New York.
The odds and injuries
The odds for this matchup are currently unavailable due to the Knicks situation. This was expected as it's not etched in stone that Amare Stoudemire will return (yahoo sports reported his return) and Carmelo Anthony, who has missed 6 out of his last 13 games, is expected to return. The Knicks are a walking MASH unit with Raymond Felton out for 4 to 6 weeks while Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd are both injured but expected to play.
If Amare plays.......
He's expected to come off of the bench due to the great chemistry that the Knicks have built without him. Carmelo Anthony has expressed his desire for Stoudemire to return. You can expect a similar dynamic such as the Miami Heat in at least one superstar being on the court at all times, whether it be Melo or Stoudemire.
This is actually a great time for the Knicks to have Stoudemire back. Raymond Felton's offense need's to be accounted for and Amare' should be very fresh and ready to go.
Let's not forget folks, fans were chanting MVP when Stoudemire first came to the Knicks from Phoenix and he was a big-time scorer and rebounder with the Suns previous to that. Expect New York to be a better ball club with Stoudemire. Portland has a lot of size with LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, and J.J. Hickson. Stoudemire's return is very timely.
J.Kidd at the point
You can also expect to see a lot more of veteran Pablo Prigioni with Felton out, but Jason Kidd and his 39 year old legs will be logging lot's of minutes. Thus far, his time as a Knick has been a major success as Kidd has hit timely shots and been a team leader.
Kidd is a unique player in that he's one of the best passers ever in the NBA and isn't known for his outside shot yet he ranks near the top in 3 points made in NBA history. He's averaging 9 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists while shooting 44.3% from 3 point range this season. Expect Jason Kidd to come up big in Raymond Felton's absence. This guy is a flatout winner.
I was thinking this ever since the Trail Blazers picked up J.J. Hickson from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Hickson is a double-double machine that flies under the radar. Of course Cleveland has their own double-double man in Anderson Varajeo, but the Blazers have a real gem in Hickson. He's a reliable offensive player that can clog the middle and make things difficult for opposing offenses. In Hickson's last 5 games, he's averaging 13.6 points and 12.2 rebounds on 56% shooting from the field.
Tonight, Hickson will have a very physical and tough matchup with Tyson Chandler. Chandler has a good 4 inches on Hickson and a much longer wingspan, but ook for the beefy Hickson to be productive and still get his points and rebounds.
When you think of an active basketballer in the northwest, forward Nicolas Batum comes to mind. Batum is a very talented basketball player that fits in well with Portland. He's coming off of a team high 22 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks in a victory over Philadelphia. Look for a solid game out of Batum against New York. The Knicks are very talented, but youth is on Batum and Portland's side.
We're going to assume that the Knicks are a moderate favorite as long as Melo play's. As I've already stated, Yahoo sports and Rotoworld have reported that Amare Stoudemire will be in uniform. How many minutes will Stoudemire play? We don't know. The Knicks are really banged up at the moment and I expect them to win on their home court in a very close game.