2 Phoenix SUNS

Their big man is up and running. If he stays healthy, there's no stopping them
October 22, 2006

When the termmicrofracture surgery comes up, the names of Penny Hardaway and Allan Houston,whose knees were never the same after undergoing the procedure, often follow.But when 6'10" Suns big man Amaré Stoudemire talks about the left-kneeoperation that sidelined him for the first 66 games of last season, he thinksof Bruce Lee and Tupac Shakur.

"Regardlessof what people say about the injury and how some people may not recover, yougot to have faith," says Stoudemire, 23, who was a second-team All-NBAselection two seasons ago. "They said Bruce Lee would never walk again[after he hurt his back], but he came back and he did his martial arts betterthan ever." On Stoudemire's most frustrating days he listens to the 2Pacsong Still I Rise, an anthem of his for a decade. "Just believe in God, andyou will rise," he says. "[The title is] written on the shoes that Iplan on wearing during the All-Star Game in February."

Stoudemire may begetting a bit ahead of himself--he admits that he still has his share of baddays, when simply running the court without pain is a chore. Phoenix openedtraining camp in Europe, and Stoudemire missed some time with pain in bothknees. Though the Suns went to the conference finals last year, for them to winthe title, Stoudemire must regain the explosiveness that made him a force atboth ends of the floor. "It was hard not being able to play this pastseason, and that drives me. It's something I never want to go throughagain," he says. "I wouldn't wish that feeling on my worstenemy."

ProjectedStarting Lineup with 2005--06 statistics

Record: 54--28(3rd in West)

Points scored:108.4 (1st in NBA)

Points allowed:102.8 (28th)

Coach: MikeD'Antoni

(fourth seasonwith the Suns)

PPG 26.0
RPG 8.9
APG 1.6
BPG 1.63
SPG 0.96
FG% 55.9
FT% 73.3

Boris Diaw
PPG 13.3
RPG 6.9
APG 6.2
BPG 1.05
SPG 0.72
FG% 52.6
3FG% 26.7

Steve Nash
PPG 18.8
RPG 4.2
APG 10.5
SPG 0.77
FG% 51.2
3FG% 43.9
FT% 92.1

Raja Bell
PPG 14.7
RPG 3.2
APG 2.6
BPG 0.28
SPG 0.96
FG% 45.7
3FG% 44.2

Shawn Marion
PPG 21.8
RPG 11.8
APG 1.8
BPG 1.69
SPG 1.98
FG% 52.5
3FG% 33.1


G LEANDRO BARBOSA 13.1 ppg 2.8 apg 0.84 spg 48.1 FG% 44.4 3FG%
F JUMAINE JONES* 10.5 ppg 4.9 rpg 0.89 spg 40.5 FG% 34.3 3FG%
F-C KURT THOMAS 8.6 ppg 7.8 rpg 1.1 apg 1.02 bpg 48.6 FG%
G MARCUS BANKS* 10.0 ppg 2.3 rpg 3.8 apg 0.93 spg 46.8 FG%
G-F ERIC PIATKOWSKI* 2.0 ppg 0.8 rpg 0.21 spg 39.3 FG% 27.3 3FG%


Enemy Lines
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Suns

Initially, thereturn of Amaré Stoudemire might actually hurt them offensively--like theproblems Sacramento had trying to incorporate Chris Webber after he had asimilar surgery. In the Suns' case it's going to require adjustments from BorisDiaw and Shawn Marion. Marion has excelled as a power forward the past twoyears by beating the bigger guys down the floor, but now he may have to yieldthat role to Stoudemire or Diaw in order to get the three of them on the floortogether.... If you have a team that can do it, the way to defend Steve Nash isto limit your defensive switches, force him to be a scorer and make him workhard. Bringing an extra defender over to stop his penetration plays into theirstrategy because you're leaving a three-point shooter open.... I used to thinkLeandro Barbosa wasn't a point guard, but now he gets it done well enough....Can they come up with enough stops to win a championship? In a seven-gameseries good opponents will lock into their plays and figure out strategies tolimit some of Nash's freelance stuff.

In the Suns' 29 games without Kurt Thomas, opponents averaged 107.6 points andPhoenix went 18--11; with Thomas, the team allowed 100.2 points per game andwent 36--17.