The Suns now know they will begin the season without All-Star Amaré Stoudemire, who will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his painful left knee this morning at Good Samaritan Hospital.
But how long will the team's star big man, who recently signed a five-year contract extension that, when complete, will be worth upward of $80 million, be out? That depends on what team physician Dr. Tom Carter finds during the procedure.
If no serious damage is found with the articular cartilage in the left knee — nothing beyond what a magnetic resonance imaging exam has already revealed — Stoudemire will miss the entire preseason but could be back in three to four weeks, the normal recuperation time for such a procedure. That means he would miss only a few regular season games.
Phoenix opens the regular season Nov. 1 at home against Dallas.
“If everything goes right, we're hoping this isn't a long process,'' Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said Monday. “We have our fingers crossed, but the belief is everything will go fine. He has the best guy in America doing the surgery.''
Stoudemire, 22, experienced soreness in the knee from time to time during the summer, but it wasn't believed to be serious until the pain worsened during two-a-day workouts during training camp in Tucson last week. Stoudemire sat out two workouts and saw limited duty in two others before shutting it down on Friday and seeking the opinions of three specialists, the last of whom was Dr. Warren Strudwick in Oakland, Calif., Sunday.
All three made the recommendation of diagnostic surgery, in which a small camera is placed through an incision in the knee joint.
“We're hoping it's only something minor," said Rodney Rice, Stoudemire's manager and spokesman, who would not speculate on how long Stoudemire will be sidelined without more information from Carter following the surgery. “We'll just have to wait and see what they find," Rice said.
Stoudemire's absence means D'Antoni will get a chance to see a lot more of his new players in the preseason. He could start veteran Brian Grant at Stoudemire's power forward spot alongside center Kurt Thomas, or he could shift Shawn Marion back to the power forward spot he played almost all of last season and start both Jim Jackson and Raja Bell, who were vying for the starting shooting guard spot.
“No one wants to see Amaré out of there, but some new guys are going to get a lot more time and it will help us see what we've got,'' D'Antoni said. “We already have a pretty good idea of what Amaré’s going to give us.''