NEW YORK (AP) - Amare Stoudemire said Thursday his recovery from right knee surgery is going ``a little bit ahead of schedule,'' though he isn't sure if he can return to the New York Knicks for the first round of the playoffs.
Stoudemire had surgery to clean up and remove tissue from the knee about 2 1/2 weeks ago and the Knicks said his expected recovery time would be about six weeks. The playoffs open the weekend of April 20.
``It's going well. Actually going a little bit ahead of schedule right now, so I want to keep that progress going,'' Stoudemire said in a phone interview.
The power forward had the same procedure, called a debridement, on the left knee in late October and returned New Year's Day. He averaged 14.2 points in 29 games as a reserve before getting hurt again.
The Knicks had kept him on a minutes restriction that started in the low 20s and had grown to 30 minutes a night before he was injured. But after Carmelo Anthony was hurt, the Knicks had no choice but to use Stoudemire right to - and even over - that limit. He played 32 minutes on March 4 in Cleveland, the game in which Anthony was injured, and went 31 minutes two nights later in a victory over Detroit, tying his season high with 22 points in each game.
He scored 16 points in a loss to Oklahoma City on March 7 in his final game, playing 29 minutes and even throwing down an impressive dunk over Thunder defensive star Serge Ibaka.
``I don't think it had anything to do with the minutes. I honestly think it was just a matter of time before that was going to happen,'' Stoudemire said.
``I felt a little something come on a few games before that, but I didn't think it was major and I just kept playing on it because we had a few injuries with Carmelo down and Tyson (Chandler) was a little banged up. So I just kept playing and so in that Oklahoma game I felt it even more.''
He had an MRI exam two days later and the Knicks announced that night he would have surgery.
``I was scoring at a high level, I was very efficient, felt like I couldn't be stopped on the court,'' Stoudemire said. ``So to be taken out by injury was very, very frustrating, but I know I have confidence that I can get back to that level.''
Stoudemire's injury and recovery are captured on film in a documentary titled ``Amare Stoudemire: In the Moment'' that will debut on EPIX on April 19. The project had been in the works for a couple of years, showing Stoudemire's family life, business projects and other aspects of his life since he signed a nearly $100 million contract with the Knicks in July 2010.
Once he was hurt, more filming was done to show footage as he rehabs from the surgery.
``It makes it even more of a better story and an interesting ending,'' he said.
So how does it end?
``It ends with my return,'' he said, laughing.
That would be a boost to a team battling for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks haven't had Stoudemire at full strength for either of their first-round exits in the last two years, and even he acknowledges that he's ``injury prone.''
``Absolutely. I've been dealing with injuries the last few years, so you could definitely say I'm injury prone,'' he said. ``But at the same time it's a matter of doing whatever you can to remain healthy as best as possible, so that's my goal right now at hand.''
The Knicks have recovered from a slump to tie their season high with six straight victories. Stoudemire would likely be ready if they reach the second round, but he's hoping he can be back even sooner.
``No guarantee I'll be back for the playoffs,'' he said. ``Hopefully, the way my health is as far the way I take care of my body, I should heal quick so hopefully I'll be ready to go.''