For two years, Steve Nash tore his hair out because the Suns didn’t have a capable backup point guard.
Then he cuts his hair off and Phoenix signs Marcus Banks.
How fair is that?
Anyway, with Banks in the fold and the roster all but set, only one question remains this summer:
How will Amaré Stoudemire look come training camp in October?
You’ll remember that on draft day, owner Robert Sarver trotted Stoudemire out like he was a show horse and introduced him as the Suns’ No. 1 pick.
The implication: We don’t need any help from the draft. We have Amaré.
The diversion played well with the crowd, but now we know what the Suns weren’t telling us that day: Stoudemire won’t be completely healthy when the Suns open the season.
Team chairman Jerry Colangelo said Monday, “I don’t think anyone should have a thought that he’ll be ready 100 percent come fall. He’s feeling a little better about where he is, but he has a long way to go to get ready for the season.”
Although that sounds ominous, there’s no reason for Suns fans to look for the nearest cliff.
Stoudemire’s rehabilitation is progressing smoothly. Coach Mike D’Antoni said Stoudemire hasn’t had any swelling or pain after practices in Las Vegas with the U.S. national team and looks better than he did in summer league play earlier this month.
“Every day we work their butts off for two hours, and the next day he feels pretty good,” D’Antoni said. “That’s encouraging. To me what’s separated the guys who can’t come back is they can’t sustain constant work. Those are the ones that have the problem. The ones that don’t have a problem work seven straight days, and Amaré is doing that.”
Recovering from microfracture surgery, however, is a mental burden as well as a physical burden. Former Cardinals defensive end Andre Wadsworth said one of the toughest things he had to do was convince himself his knee could handle the burden of playing football.
Stoudemire is encountering the same self-doubt.
“He favors it sometimes unconsciously,” D’Antoni said. “That’s how he’s done it for a year. It’s going to take time for him to relearn how to run fluidly and not think about it.”
Making matters more difficult is the way Stoudemire plays. His game is predicated on his explosiveness, and until he believes he can be Superman again, he won’t be.
“I think he’ll get better and better as the season progresses,” Colangelo said. “But before he can get his explosiveness back he needs to be in great shape, then bust through these hurdles, in terms of his confidence physically. Structurally he’s fine. But what he’s dealing with is having the confidence to explode.”
The best thing for Stoudemire would be to play in the four exhibition games leading up to the world championships next month in Japan. He needs to test his knee in game action, and better to do it in August than November.
There had been some talk that Stoudemire wouldn’t make the team, which will make its first roster cuts today. But coach Mike Krzyzewski praised Stoudemire’s play on Sunday, and the Suns’ forward has some powerful friends on his side: Colangelo is the team’s managing director, and D’Antoni is an assistant coach.
“I think it would be good for him to play,” Colangelo said. “It can only help him.”
In other words, Stoudemire should dust off his passport.
Stoudemire seems to understand the benefit of the overseas trip as well. A month ago, he said he’d probably pass on Japan because he didn’t want to miss the birth of his second child. On Sunday, however, he said he’d like to go.
“He’s feeling so good,” D’Antoni said. “A lot of it was based on trepidation, what kind of shape he was in. But he’s really taken to the challenge.” There will be more challenges along the way. One year is a blink of an eye when it comes to recovering from microfracture surgery. T
hose who hoped to see the Stoudemire of old likely will be disappointed come training camp. He may also encounter problems playing in back-toback games.
But July isn’t as important as November, and November isn’t as crucial as June. So be patient. Stoudemire is worth the wait.