Don’t think for a second that Amar’e Stoudemire was out of mind and out of sight, just because he couldn’t see out of one of his eyes. The Suns All-Star made his return to the arena Saturday for the first time since his operation on Feb. 20. But this time, he was decked out in some serious shades.
When a reporter asked if it was for medical reasons that he was wearing shades or he was just trying to look cool, Stoudemire responded playfully, “A little bit of both.”
After suffering a detached retina on Feb 18 against the Clippers, the former Rookie of the Year was under strict orders to keep his eye away from the light. Dr. Praven Dugel instructed Stoudemire to stay at home for two weeks and do nothing.
“My vision is ok,” he said. “I have a buckle around the inside of my eye that changes the shape of my eye. It makes me more nearsighted than farsighted.”
The first couple weeks, Stoudemire donned an eye patch before switching over to sunglasses. Finally, he was recently allowed out of the house.
“I had to keep a certain amount of shade,” Stoudemire reported. “Also, I had to stay away from anything that may have a jarring physical effect on me.’
The process has had a tiring effect on STAT.
“I could understand how it’s tough for a lot of retired guys to not be around the team,” he said. “This was very tough for me.”
Stoudemire was averaging 21.4 points and 8.1 rebounds on 54 percent shooting from the floor before he was sidleined. He says he was poised to step up his game for the second half of the season after dropping 42 points on the Clippers that night. The four-time All-Star played in only two games under new Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry.
‘I was really starting to really step into my own as far as playing the game of basketball,” he said. “I was ready to really to take that next step.”
The irony of the injury was that just before he was injured, he mentioned to the training staff that when he returned to Phoenix he wanted to have his eye examined. On that night, the Clippers’ Al Thornton went up to dunk and poked him in the eye.
When he visited Dr. Dugel at the Spectra Eye Institute in Sun City, AZ, STAT was informed that he was going to have emergency surgery. Stoudemire first suffered an injury to that right eye when former teammate Boris Diaw accidently poked him during this season’s training camp.
“I was more terrified I couldn’t see at all for the first three minutes,” he said. “Right then and there I was more afraid.” Actually the second time, he possessed less fear.
“You can’t tell if you have a detached retina unless someone sees it,” he said. “I caught it at a great time to save my eyesight.”
Stoudemire, who is predicted to be fully healed in about a month, admitted that he’ll be wearing protective sport goggles for the rest of his career.
Unfortunately for him, rest is the only rehab for such an injury. But STAT found the silver lining in it all.
“The most positive aspect of this situation is that I get to spend a lot of time with my kids,” he said. “A lot of daddy day care.”
When Stoudemire entered the locker room, he was greeted warmly by his teammates. Shaquille O’Neal started dancing on him saying that it was “great to have him back.”
STAT said that despite what they’ve been through this season, the team remains cohesive in the locker room.
“There were a lot of jokes,” Stoudemire said about his visit. “Everybody is laughing, getting along and have a good time.”
Stoudemire, who is up for an extension this summer, noted that he’d be open to talking about a staying in the Valley.
“My plans are to remain here,” he said.
His new coach certainly misses him.
“He’s been through a lot and just to be back in the locker room and be around the guys, I’m sure felt good,” Gentry said. “We’ll just see how it goes hopefully he can be around the team a little bit now for the he last couple weeks of the season.”