Stoudemire undergoes microfracture surgery, out for four months
PHOENIX - Eight days after signing a five-year, $73 million contract extension, Amare Stoudemire underwent surgery Tuesday to repair damage to his left knee and will be sidelined for about four months.
The extent of the injury to the Phoenix Suns' dynamic young all-star was determined during "diagnostic" surgery by team doctor Thomas Carter, who then proceeded with the microfracture repair, Suns president Bryan Colangelo said.
Stoudemire, who turns 23 next month, signed for the maximum allowed under the NBA's collective bargaining agreement with the players union. The extension kicks in after this season.
Colangelo said the team knew of Stoudemire's knee problem during contract negotiations, but was not aware of the extent until Tuesday's surgery. Even had they known, it would not have had an impact on signing a player the Suns believe could develop into the best in the NBA.
"Whatever is in the best interest of Amare is in the best interest of the Suns," Colangelo said.
The team projects Stoudemire to return around the All-Star break Feb. 17-21.
Carter detected the defect in an MRI exam several weeks ago and initially dealt with it through treatment and rest.
Stoudemire first talked about the soreness six to eight weeks ago, Colangelo said. After it worsened during last week's training camp in Tucson, he sought the opinions of three doctors before giving Carter the go-ahead for arthroscopic surgery.
"Dr. Carter, in consultation with Amare, chose the best course of action in terms of treating it aggressively and taking care of it now rather than letting it become a lingering problem," Colangelo said.
In a news release, the Suns said Carter repaired a joint surface defect roughly one centimeter in diameter on the inside of his left knee.
"The surgery went well and other than the defect that we treated today, Amare's knee is remarkably and structurally healthy," Carter said in the statement released by the team. "Given Amare's age and the nominal size of the location of the defect, I am confident the microfracture procedure performed will allow a healthy and normal return to action."
Considered the cornerstone of the franchise, Stoudemire was rookie of the year in 2003 and has improved each season.
The arrival of Steve Nash a year ago gave the Suns as formidable a two-man game as there is in the league, helping the Suns to an NBA-best 62 victories.
The 6-foot-10, 245-pound forward was fifth in the league in scoring at 26 points per game. He averaged 30 points in the playoffs, 37 in the Western Conference finals against Tim Duncan and the eventual NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.
Stoudemire's absence will leave the Suns with a vastly different team through the first 3 1/2 months of the regular season. With the trade of Quentin Richardson and the departure of Joe Johnson in a sign-and-trade deal with Atlanta, the only starters from last season's team will be the NBA's most valuable player, Nash, and all-star Shawn Marion.
"It's out of our control, so we've got to go out and make the most of what we have and not worry about the piece we're missing," Nash said after Tuesday's practice. "We'll try to build our team and hopefully be a better team when he returns."
Coach Mike D'Antoni said the team probably would go small more often to better utilize the personnel. There will be no change in the high-energy style that made the team one of the most popular in the league last year, he said.
"We're not going to hang our heads," D'Antoni said. "We're not going to go `Oh gosh, what are we going to do?' What we're going to do is make the playoffs and have a great season, and get Amare back in there to push us over the top."
Marion will find himself back in the power forward role he played with great success last season, even though or perhaps because he was playing against much bigger but slower players.
"We don't have any inside post presence," Marion said. "However you want to look at it, he's a beast in there, so we are going to miss that inside threat. But with Kurt (Thomas) and Brian (Grant), we do have some inside bangers."
D'Antoni believes that this will be a minor detour on what had been a remarkably fast route to greatness.
"Amare will be fine," the coach said. "I fully expect him to be great when he comes back and wow the fans for 10 more years."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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