Amaré Out Four Months

By Jerry Brown
East Valley Tribune
Oct. 12, 2005

A few days ago, the Phoenix Suns were hoping they wouldn’t have to open the regular season without their $73 million man, Amaré Stoudemire.

Suddenly, the Suns have their fingers crossed they’ll have the 22-year-old superstar back some time before the season is over.
Just eight days after signing a five-year contract extension for the maximum allowed by the NBA, Stoudemire underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee Tuesday morning — after doctors found more damage than originally hoped — and will be out for at least four months.

Suns team physician Dr. Tom Carter, performed the earlymorning surgery at Banner Good Samaritan Hospital — a procedure that began as diagnostic but soon became a microfracture procedure when a one-centimeter, joint-surface defect was treated on the inside of the left knee.

Carter anticipated Stoudemire’s return to "competitive basketball at around four months.’’ That projection would have Stoudemire back in uniform at or around the Feb. 17-21 NBA All-Star break.

Stoudemire’s knee will be immobilized for four to six weeks before the rehab process can begin.

"The surgery went well and other than the defect that we treated today, Amaré’s knee is remarkably and structurally sound,’’ Carter said in a statement released by the team. "Given Amaré’s age and the nominal size and location of the defect, I am confident the microfracture procedure performed will allow a healthy and normal return to action.’’

Stoudemire’s manager, Rodney Rice, was present for the surgery and spoke to Amaré by phone late Tuesday night.

"He wasn’t in any pain from the surgery and he’s confident that he can be back out there playing and contributing to the team after the All-Star break,’’ Rice said. "We knew there was a chance this would be the situation, that microfracture would be a possibility. It was best to do it now instead of taking a chance the lesion would grow. We all agreed on that.’’

Suns president and general manager Bryan Colangelo said Stoudemire reported intermittent knee pain as far back as six to eight weeks ago — even while the two sides were hammering out his new contract. Rest and treatment initially seemed to help, but when the pain returned about a month ago, the team ordered an MRI exam where the defect was first detected.

Again, treatment and rest were employed. But when the pain returned during two-aday training camp workouts in Tucson last week, Stoudemire and the Suns sought the opinion of three different knee specialists — including Carter — all of whom recommended arthroscopic surgery to determine the extent of the damage.

After trading Quentin Richardson and Joe Johnson over the summer, Stoudemire’s injury leaves the Suns with only two starters — league MVP Steve Nash and fellow All-Star Shawn Marion — remaining from the team that stunned the NBA with 62 wins and a run to the Western Conference finals last year.

But coach Mike D’Antoni is confident a slew of players acquired to make the Suns deeper and more versatile — from veterans Kurt Thomas, Brian Grant and Pat Burke up front to swingmen Raja Bell, James Jones, Boris Diaw and Eddie House — along with holdovers Jim Jackson and Leandro Barbosa will still be able to light up the scoreboard until Stoudemire returns.

The likely starting lineup will be Thomas at center, Marion back at the power forward spot he played last season, and two of either Bell, Jackson and Jones on the perimeter with Nash.

"We have enough talent . . . and we’re going to win anyway,’’ D’Antoni said. "We lost our biggest weapon, but we have a lot of others. Steve Nash has played a lot of basketball without Amaré and we’ll find a way to score 110 points anyway."

Nash and Marion weren’t taking it for granted Stoudemire would be back at all this year.

"You can say four months, but you don’t really know. Every surgery and every rehab is different and you can’t count on it,’’ Marion said. "All we can do is play hard, win games and hope he comes back at some point.’’

Nash said he was hoping Stoudemire would miss only a month, but he prepared himself for the worst.

"This is a very difficult surgery to come back from,’’ Nash said. "If he’s able to come back this year, we’ll obviously jump up and down with happiness.’’

The team has 14 players on its current roster, with rookies Dijon Thompson and Lucas Tischer likely headed to the developmental league. That means the Suns can add to their roster by signing a free agent to the veteran minimum, or via a trade — the Suns are over the salary cap, but have a $3.6 million cap exception via this summer’s trade that sent Johnson to Atlanta.

Suns general manager Bryan Colangelo said he will use the eight exhibition games the team has, beginning Friday night in Seattle, to gauge the progress of the team and whether any immediate changes would be made.

"The people we brought in certainly help us weather the storm,’’ Colangelo said. "Mike is confident we have enough players and skill level to not necessarily compensate for Amaré’s loss, but with depth that will benefit us.’’

COPYRIGHT 2005, EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE. Used with permission.