Injured JJ to Have Surgery This Morning
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(Barry Gossage/NBAE Photos)
By Josh Greene, Suns.com
Posted: May 12, 2005, 3:30 a.m.
The Suns may have lost Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals, but they are more concerned with the possibility of losing Joe Johnson for the remainder of the playoffs.
The Phoenix guard is out for Friday’s Game 3 and Sunday's Game 4 in Dallas and possibly the rest of the postseason after suffering a displaced fracture of his left orbital bone (eye socket) during the second quarter of Wednesday’s 108-106 loss to the Mavericks. Surgery is scheduled for later this morning at Good Samaritan Hospital and JJ’s return to action is undetermined at this point.
The injury occurred with 19.7 seconds left in the first half when the NBA Playoffs’ three-point leader hit the floor after a flagrant foul at the basket by Mavs guard Jerry Stackhouse.
“I don’t want to hurt anybody and it wasn’t intentional,” Stackhouse said. “I was just challenging him. I had all ball. It was his momentum holding onto the rim and he just came down. It was unfortunate. I hope he’s fine and he comes back. He’s a key part of this series.”
Surrounded by teammates and Suns trainers, a bloodied and visibly shaken Johnson stayed down for a few minutes before slowly rising to his feet to shoot his free throws. In addition to a lot of swelling around his left eye, it was evident to everyone that the guard wasn’t right.
“He was pretty out of it,” Head Athletic Trainer Aaron Nelson told Suns.com. “We were trying to ask him questions to find out how severe a concussion it was. So we were like, ‘Can you shoot the free throws?’ and he was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, let’s go.’ So I put (sterile) strips on his eye. I told him, 'don’t open your eye.' That’s probably why he missed the first one, and then the second one he was able to zoom in and hit it.
"Then we brought him in the back and asked him some questions that he didn’t know the answer to. But by the time he was leaving here he was starting to be able to answer some of the questions, but he couldn’t answer everything.”
JJ exited the game with eight points and two rebounds in 21 minutes, the fewest minutes he’s played in over two years.
“It’s always scary to see any of your teammates, anybody in general... it’s tough to watch them go down like that,” Quentin Richardson said. “Especially to see blood and things like that, and not really know how okay he is.
“It’s unfortunate. It’s very unfortunate. I just hope he gets himself together and he’s going to be able to come out and play soon. I don’t know how soon, but just soon.”
Initial reports indicated Johnson suffered a low-grade orbital fracture which did not require surgery, but that diagnosis quickly changed once swelling increased the severity of the original injury. On top of that, he suffered a mild concussion among other injuries.
“He also has six stitches above his eye,” Nelson added. “He has a pretty big, significant-size hematoma (in his lip) from a bite that goes all the way from the outside to the inside; scarred up his hand and had a little laceration on his wrist. So he’s pretty banged up. He’s got a terrible headache and that’s not going to go away for the next few days, so we’ll just keep on top of it and decide what to do.”
Initially the hope was for Johnson to don a protective facial mask and return to action later in the series. But with the news of his surgery, his timetable is now uncertain at best.
The injury eliminates one of the Suns' key overall weapons for the forseeable future. Johnson's team-high 25 points in Game 4 of the opening round of the NBA Playoffs vs. the Grizzlies helped ice the series sweep. Eight days later, he repeated that career-playoff high in scoring in Monday's win over the Mavericks to open the semis.
His absence in Game 3 will be the first game Johnson’s missed since he came to Phoenix in February 2002.
“That’s my man,” said Shawn Marion about his fallen teammate. “I’m going to pray for him tonight.
"We need him. He’s one of the best perimeter defenders we have. We’re going to miss him, but we’ve got to step it up until he comes back, and try to hold the fort down.”