Sometime in the coming week, whether against the Lakers on Christmas Day or later, Amar'e Stoudemire will return to the Knicks. He will likely not return to their starting lineup and has said he's comfortable coming off the bench. Stoudemire has not played for the Knicks this season due to a knee injury that also kept him out of all but one preseason game.

Before the Knicks brought in Carmelo Anthony, it was hard to imagine that the return of a player who was the face of the franchise during his first season with the team would be greeted with so much anxiety. But that's why we watch the games.

There are two related reasons for the worry: first, since the Knicks traded for Anthony two seasons ago, the Anthony-Stoudemire-Chandler trio has been an awkward fit. Both Stoudemire and Chandler flourish in the pick-and-roll, where only one of them can be at a time and Anthony's need to hold the ball limited its use. Things seemed crowded.

The second, related concern is that the Knicks are rolling: their pick-and-roll heavy, spread-the-floor and jack-it-up-from-three offense is the second best in the league, largely due to the fact that Carmelo Anthony is playing power forward, Stoudemire's natural position.

And of course, even though Stoudemire has said he's willing to come off the bench it isn't known whether he will be comfortable with limited minutes and sitting at the end of games. For its part, the Knicks front-office was concerned enough that it made Stoudemire "available for free" this offseason. There were no takers.

All these concerns are completely valid. But there are plenty of reasons to be excited about STAT's return:

  • The Knicks struggle to score when Carmelo Anthony goes to the bench: their offensive efficiency drops by a whopping ten points when Melo sits which of course at times he must. Having Stoudemire out there running the pick-and-roll with Pablo Prigioni and the second unit gives them an offensive weapon they can rely on. JR Smith, who is in the midst of a solid season, is too much of a feast-or-famine player to count on every night.
  • Tyson Chandler has become perhaps the most dominant pick-and-roll player in the game, which puts pressure on the defense and opens up the court for the Knicks three-point attack. Before Chandler, there was Amar'e.
  • Stoudemire has been a great pick-and-roll player throughout his career and has at times shot the mid-range jump shot out of it well enough to remind fans of Karl Malone. Last season, Stoudemire's shooting numbers plummeted in the paint and in the mid-range, declining from 44% shooting in those areas to just 31%. One significant factor in that decline was the lack of quality point guard play to set Stoudemire up in the pick-and-roll. This year, Stoudemire gets to play with Raymond Felton, who set him up for that 44% number in 2010-2011, Jason Kidd and backup Pablo Prigioni, who is a very capable pick-and-roll PG. Playing with quality guards should allow Stoudemire to re-establish himself as a dominant force in the P&R and will allow the offense to function as well with him on the court as it does with Chandler.
  • Stoudemire's ability to shoot jump shots - something Chandler literally does not do at all - should give the Knicks half-court offense a dimension it does not currently have and will allow them to shoot less threes with Anthony on the bench, which is also when they struggle most to make them.
  • Having Stoudemire available will allow the Knicks to limit the minutes of both Chandler and Anthony, which is tremendously important for a team planning a long playoff run. Anthony's already picked up a few bumps and bruises and has missed four games already. Chandler, so vitally important to what the Knicks do on defense, has been injury-prone in the past. Stoudemire gives the Knicks flexibility at both center and power forward and will allow the team to limit Chandler and Melo's minutes in a way the ancient trio of Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas has so far not been able to do this season.
  • Amar'e got married this year. This picture is not to be missed. Yes, that is a tallit and yarmulke.

After living with more than a decade of awful basketball, Knicks fans are understandably concerned about the return of Amar'e Stoudemire. But as long as Stoudemire is comfortable with coming off the bench and a smaller role than he has in the past, his return is likely to make the Knicks an even better team. It should be embraced.

You can follow Jonathan Fishner on Twitter @therealkingfish, and check out his blog The Real King Fish.