Friday, February 20, 2009
Updated: February 22, 2:24 AM ET
Stoudemire has surgery to repair retina
By Marc Stein
A day after they decided to let the trade deadline pass without making a major money-saving move, the inactivity seemingly has turned incredibly costly for the Phoenix Suns.
The Suns have announced that Amare Stoudemire was forced to undergo surgery Friday to repair a partially detached retina in his right eye suffered in a Wednesday night rout of the Los Angeles Clippers. It is Stoudemire's second injury in that eye since October and threatens to sideline the All-Star forward for the rest of the regular season.
Stoudemire's return to physical activity has been estimated at eight weeks by the Suns after Friday morning's procedure, although the club said in a statement that "recovery varies on a case-by-case basis."
In a club statement Friday, Suns president of basketball operations Steve Kerr said: "We are very glad to hear that Amare should have a 100-percent recovery relative to his vision and his long-term prognosis is excellent. Obviously, it is very disappointing to lose him at this time. We are all very excited about the progress the team is making, but Amare's health and the health of all our players is our No. 1 concern."
The Suns were starting to feel a sense of optimism about salvaging something from a painful season after replacing coach Terry Porter with Alvin Gentry on Monday, ringing up 282 points in back-to-back victories over the Clippers and getting the go-ahead Thursday from owner Robert Sarver to keep hold of Stoudemire and Shaquille O'Neal after shopping both this month in an attempt significantly reduce Sarver's payroll.
But Stoudemire's injury -- suffered in the first quarter of his 42-point shredding of the Clippers -- means that the Suns will have to try to make the playoffs without him, which was not going to be easy even with a healthy Stoudemire. The Suns awoke Friday as the West's No. 9 team in an eight-team race with a record of 30-23, one game behind No. 8 Utah.
Stoudemire's minutes will likely go primarily to reserve forward Louis Amundson, with Phoenix also likely to join the Boston Celtics and other teams bidding for Mikki Moore, who was released Thursday by Sacramento.
Stoudemire suffered a partially torn iris in his right eye early in training camp in October after being inadvertently poked by then-teammate Boris Diaw. Stoudemire suffered no damage to the retina or cornea that time, but said he would likely wear protective goggles for the rest of his career to keep his eyes safe.
Stoudemire, though, didn't stay with the goggles long, ditching them after seven games because he felt they compromised his on-court comfort level.
"I was having problems with blurriness from sweat and getting a good fit," Stoudemire said at the time. "Enough was enough.
"The chance of another injury is there, but I'll be working off faith."
The Arizona Republic reported on its Web site Friday that Stoudemire appeared to suffer the injury on an inbounds play. He was later seen bending at the waist covering his eye in obvious pain after trying to block an Al Thornton dunk attempt. After briefly leaving the game, Stoudemire wound up posting his second-highest point total of the season.
Stoudemire is averaging a team-high 21.4 points this season along with 8.1 rebounds. After Phoenix talked to several teams about a potential Stoudemire trade to reduce its payroll -- which initially had Stoudemire himself convinced that he would be leaving town before the trading deadline -- ESPN.com reported Monday the Suns began notifying other teams that it was no longer willing to field offers for the 26-year-old.
The Suns also exchanged proposals this week with Cleveland and Portland on an O'Neal deal but ultimately passed on a deadline-day deal with the Cavs as well.
In an interview with KTAR-AM (620) in Phoenix, Sarver said Thursday: "I can't really talk about the specifics about individual teams, but I will say we did have an opportunity to get quite a bit of financial relief with Shaq. And we had a lot of interest in Amare, as well as some of our other players.
"But at the end of the day, I think our momentum has really shifted around and our fans really like what they see right now. And I like what we see. We want to give this team another shot to make another run at a championship. Maybe that's wishful thinking on my part, I don't know. But I look at how the guys are playing and the pieces we have and we decided to go with what we got and we'll figure out the financials next year."
Said Kerr in Thursday's editions of the Republic: "People knew we were holding firm and going forward. It's a relief for me because I really believe in our team and what we have. We had a chance to save money. To Robert's credit, he stepped up and said, 'Let's stay with what we have.' That was our recommendation from basketball operations. He was adamant about staying put."
It's believed that the Suns were planning to revisit the idea of trading Stoudemire in conjunction with the June draft because of a payroll projected to be more than $5 million over the luxury-tax threshold next season. The financial concerns that prompted Phoenix to shop Stoudemire in the first place only became more serious with the coaching change, since Sarver was forced to eat an estimated $4 million in guaranteed salary due to Porter over the next two seasons.
The list of teams with which Phoenix exchanged Stoudemire trade proposals, according to NBA front-office sources, includes Chicago, Golden State, Cleveland, Memphis, Sacramento and Detroit.
Yet sources say the Suns were never close to landing the desired combination of salary-cap relief, young talent and draft picks to convince them to part with Stoudemire, who just played in his fourth All-Star Game and ranks as the league's most successful comeback case from microfracture knee surgery.
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.