New York Knicks fans already knew that power forward Amar'e Stoudemire would miss the team's season-opening matchup with the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night due to a left knee injury. On Tuesday, they learned his return to the court is much further away than originally expected.
As first reported by Howard Beck of the New York Times, the Knicks announced Tuesday afternoon that Stoudemire needs "left knee debridement" and will miss approximately six to eight weeks. ("Debridement" refers to the removal of dead tissue from an area in the hope of spurring healing of the surrounding healthy tissue.)
The announcement comes one day after ESPN.com's Chris Broussard reported that the ruptured popliteal cyst behind Stoudemire's left knee would keep him on the shelf for longer than the initial two- to three-week estimate:
[...] after Stoudemire received a second opinion over the weekend from Dr. Thomas Carter, the Phoenix Suns team doctor, it was determined he would need more time to heal. Carter performed microfracture surgery on Stoudemire's left knee in 2005.
It is not clear whether Stoudemire will use the extra time off to have a procedure or for rest and rehab.
Stoudemire may be out between 6-8 weeks, according to two of the sources.
If the timeline bears out, the Knicks could be without their second-leading scorer from a season ago (and their highest-paid player) for as many as 20 to 28 games. A six-week timetable could mean Stoudemire comes back in time for a Dec. 11 matchup with the Nets; an eight-week recovery could mean a return for New York's Christmas Day contest against the Los Angeles Lakers.
After ending an injury-plagued lockout-shortened 2011-12 season in something of an inauspicious manner, Stoudemire set out this summer with something to prove. The six-time NBA All-Star traveled to Texas to work with post-play guru Hakeem Olajuwon, aiming to develop a back-to-the-basket game that would bolster an offensive skill-set previously predicated almost entirely on face-up jumpers and raw athleticism; more importantly, Knicks fans hoped, this dedication to the low block would help Stoudemire's offensive game fit better alongside that of fellow front-court star Carmelo Anthony.
STAT looked quick, sharp and lithe in his workouts with "The Dream," but since coming back up north, he's had a rough run of it. First, it was a rolled ankle. Then, he banged his surgically repaired left knee during practice, causing him to miss the team's preseason opener. He'd miss another game before making his preseason debut with 18 points in 27 minutes in an Oct. 19 loss to the Toronto Raptors.
But that would be his only preseason appearance, as an MRI two days later revealed the ruptured cyst in the injured left knee. After the initial diagnosis estimated that the injury would keep Stoudemire sidelined for two to three weeks, he sought a second opinion in hopes of getting a clearer picture of what was going on in that surgically repaired knee; unfortunately for him, and for Knicks fans, it seems that picture revealed a worse situation than previously expected.
Some Knicks fans might argue that Stoudemire's absence actually bodes well for New York on the court, since it's likely to mean more time for Anthony at the power forward spot where, as we covered in BDL's Knicks season preview, both he and the team's offense were significantly more potent last season. But while allowing Anthony to create mismatches against opposing defenders should help the Knicks' offensive rhythm, and while losing Stoudemire certainly doesn't figure to hurt New York on the defensive end, it's certainly less than ideal for New York to field one fewer reliable big body at a time when center Tyson Chandler is day-to-day with a left knee injury of his own, backup center Marcus Camby has missed the past month with a left calf strain and wild-card reserve Rasheed Wallace has participated in all of one scrimmage as he shakes off more than a year of rust and calories.
Both Chandler and Camby hope to play Thursday night, but if they're limited, the Knicks' only healthy, game-ready options at the four and five spots appear to be rookie training-camp hero Chris Copeland and 40-year-old Kurt Thomas, who's likely to start in Stoudemire's place against the Nets. Somehow I don't think that's the front-court rotation that Knicks coach Mike Woodson had in mind when drawing up the depth chart this summer.