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Suns' Stoudemire out eight weeks after eye surgery

Posted Feb 20 2009 9:38PM

PHOENIX (AP) -- Amar'e Stoudemire could be finished for the season just days after the Phoenix Suns decided not to trade him.

Stoudemire, a starter for the West in Sunday's All-Star Game, had eye surgery Friday and won't be able to resume physical activity for about eight weeks.

"We're going to be ultraconservative with this and if it means he misses the remainder of the season, so be it," Suns general manager Steve Kerr said. "He's got a long career and a long life ahead of him. And that's the most important thing."

The NBA playoffs begin eight weeks from Saturday, and it's no sure thing the Suns will even be in the postseason, especially with their All-Star power forward unavailable for the final 29 games of the regular season.

"He was really discouraged," Kerr said. "He was really starting to play well. He was feeling good about things. Our team obviously is feeling very good about things, just about the way the last couple of games have gone, and this is a major blow."

The eye had been bothering Stoudemire before Wednesday night's game against the Clippers in Los Angeles, where he scored 42 points in Phoenix's 142-129 victory. A blow to the head early in the game may have aggravated the injury.

The Suns didn't find out about the need for surgery until after Thursday's trade deadline.

"He seemed fine. He didn't have a lot of discomfort after the game," Kerr said. "It seemed like this was going to be a routine checkup like he's had about monthly throughout this season. We didn't expect, obviously, what we found out."

Had the Suns known of the injury, Kerr said he would have looked to acquire someone to help fill the void, "but that's easier said than done."

Dr. Pravin Dugel, who performed the surgery to repair a partially detached retina in Stoudemire's right eye, said the eight-week recovery period is an average and the time varies case by case.

Stoudemire injured the same eye in training camp this season. In that case, he had a partially torn iris with no damage to the retina.

Last week, the Suns entertained offers from other teams for Stoudemire but decided against the move after firing coach Terry Porter on Sunday and replacing him with Alvin Gentry. Gentry returned Phoenix to the high-speed game of Mike D'Antoni, a system that suits Stoudemire best.

Gentry said the team would keep running. He inserted speedy guard Leandro Barbosa into the starting lineup against Oklahoma City on Friday night, moving 6-foot-8 Grant Hill to the power forward spot.

"We want to run as much as we have," Gentry said before the game, "and if we can run more, we'll do that."

He said his starting lineup could vary depending on the opponent.

"We'll have combinations out there with a lot of small guys and we'll have combinations out there with a lot of medium guys," Gentry said. "We don't really have a lot of big guys so we'll be medium I guess out there."

Stoudemire is one of the game's best finishers on fastbreaks.

Rather than "a thunderous dunk," Gentry said, "it may have to be a layup. But we can still do some of the things that we did, a lot of things that we did."

Steve Nash said the players have to keep their spirits up.

"We've got a choice to make," Nash said. "Are we going to come together and make the most of the situation and give ourselves a chance, or are we going to cry about it and fragment and splinter and not give ourselves a chance?"

Stoudemire's backup used to be Boris Diaw, but he was traded to Charlotte along with Raja Bell in the deal that brought Jason Richardson to Phoenix.

"We traded Boris and we lose Amar'e," Nash said. "So we lost two really good power forwards and that's going to put a strain on any team. But we'll just try to make do and do the best we can.

"We've still got a lot of good players and if we come together and have a good spirit and are competitive, I think we'll win a lot of games."

Owner Robert Sarver also chose not to deal Shaquille O'Neal, like Stoudemire a high-priced player with a year left on his contract, in order to make a run at the postseason. The Suns entered Friday night's play a game behind Utah for the eighth and final playoff berth in the West.

Kerr said Stoudemire's long-term prognosis is excellent, and he should have 100 percent recovery of his vision.

Stoudemire, the only Suns player to start all 53 games, is the team's leading scorer for the third consecutive year, averaging 21.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.

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