by John Schuhmann

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VSL: Suns-Pistons Highlights
D'Antoni: Comments on Amare
What is microfracture surgery?
Wikipedia defines microfracture surgery as "an orthopedic surgical technique used to restore damaged knee cartilage, the material that helps cushion bones at the joints." Basically, new cartilage is formed in the knee when a blood clot occurs after tiny holes are punched in the bone. It's a quick, not-so-invasive procedure that has had mixed results when it comes to professional athletes.
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Amare was feeling good in Las Vegas.
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." -- Confucius

This summer, Amare Stoudemire is working his way back from microfracture surgery on his left knee and arthroscopic surgery on his right. He has joined a bunch of rookies, undrafted free agents and veterans looking for a second chance in Las Vegas, looking to get back in basketball shape by partaking in the Vegas Summer League.

He made his debut on July 7 against Minnesota, playing 30 minutes and scoring 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting while grabbing eight boards. The reviews were mixed.

Amare said that he felt "explosive" and "fast." DraftExpress said that "he clearly was restraining his natural tendency to be powerful and aggressive in the post," while the Arizona Republic reported that he "still looked distant" from the goal of being ready for real NBA action.

That's OK. He still has three and a half months to go. Everyone seemed to agree that while Amare didn't have his patented athleticism, he showed improvement in some of the other aspects of his game, like his shooting, ball-handling and passing.

Perhaps a more encouraging sign was the fact that Stoudemire responded well the next time out according to the Arizona Republic. He followed up his debut with two more solid games against New York and Detroit. NBA TV's Rick Kamla was encouraged by the fact that Amare didn't favor either knee at any point in the three games.

While his teammates stayed in Las Vegas, Amare returned to Phoenix after that for a routine checkup. He will return to Vegas for USA Basketball training camp beginning July 19. He has said that, with a baby due in August, it's unlikely that he will participate in the World Championships in Japan. That will give him a break before training camp opens in early October.

As part of its Summer League coverage, NBA TV will show the Phoenix-Detroit game on Saturday, July 15 at 12 a.m. ET.

The Suns With and Without Amare
Season W-L PPG OPPG FG% OFG% RPG ORPG
2004-05 62-20 112.0 107.8 .493 .468 43.1 43.6
2005-06 54-28 108.4 102.8 .479 .454 41.8 45.9

Fear Not Suns Fans

More than 15 NBA players have undergone microfracture surgery. Of course, there are the Allan Houstons and Jamal Mashburns, but microfracture is not a basketball death sentence. Several players have come back from the procedure to return to their previous form and produce in the NBA.

One of those success stories is Jason Kidd, who had microfracture surgery on his left knee in July of 2004. He missed the first 16 games of the '04-05 season, started slowly, but he played a full season in '05-06 and is back to being Mr. Triple-Double. Kidd led the league with eight this season, while only two other players (each more than nine years younger than him) recorded more than two.

And in case you forgot (or perhaps didn't even know), John Stockton had microfracture surgery way back in October of 1997. At the time, he was 35 years old. He came back to play 64 games that season and lead the Jazz to the NBA Finals. He played five more seasons after that, averaging 32.8 minutes and 8.2 assists per game post-surgery.

The most important factor in recovering from microfracture surgery is the rehabilition afterwards. Doctors stress a strictly-observed period of rest, followed by a gradual increase of activity. Players like Chris Webber and Anfernee Hardaway believe that they didn't feel right until more than a year after the surgery.

All eyes will be on Amare when he returns to the Phoenix lineup this fall. There will be people doubting him and there will be people rooting for him. He probably won't be the old Amare right away, but given time, he could be exactly what the Suns need to get over the top.