"Amaré vows to be All-Star
The Arizona Republic
Sept. 11, 2006 12:00 AM
With his daily workout done and his shaved scalp drying, Amaré Stoudemire unwinds on a misplaced couch.
He folds down the tongue on an early model of his still-to-be-released Nike shoe, unveiling purple script that reads, "Still I rise."
"That's my motto," said Stoudemire, who often has cited Tupac Shakur's raps as a guiding force since his teens. "No matter what obstacles come my way, still I rise."
If he rises again, to his pledge of All-Star status this season, it would rival the improbability of the rise that first got him there from a childhood maze. This time, he is rising from microfracture surgery, performed on his left knee 11 months ago.
But Suns training camp is fast approaching at the end of the month, and the title hopes that accompany it are pinned on Stoudemire's comeback. He tried a return last season but cut it short to have a cyst and debris removed from his right knee in April.
"I'm like the Phoenix bird," he said. "I'm kind of reincarnating myself. I'm looking forward to being in Vegas on All-Star weekend and playing on Sunday."
To that end, Stoudemire has worked out almost daily since he left USA Basketball's tryout camp early in August because his body was not ready.
His managers then hired former Suns athletic trainer Robin Pound. Pound guided Jason Kidd after his 2004 microfracture. Kidd might be the procedure's most successful NBA client.
Stoudemire said his work with Pound focuses on strengthening.
He said he is at his usual 245-pound playing weight but feels leaner, with 10 percent body fat.
Stoudemire has been coming to the arena three times a week to work on basketball skills with Suns coaches and weight training, corrective exercises and manual therapy with the Suns athletic trainers. He also is assessed weekly by Mike Clark, president of the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
On off-days, Stoudemire swims three different strokes for 15 laps in a 25-meter pool.
"He's been progressing and getting himself more mentally and physically ready to play," Nelson said.
His only recent setback was swelling in the right knee last month. That dissipated with two days of rest. He said his left knee is perfect.
"I'm definitely getting my explosiveness back and agility," Stoudemire said. "It's a lot better than when I played with USA and summer league. It's night and day.
"I'm back to a windmill dunk off one leg. I'm taking off outside the paint. My creativity in the air is coming back. I think I'm going to gradually improve throughout the season. I'm not quite sure if I'm going to be 100 percent by the regular season. But wherever I start the season, I'll gradually improve and next year will even be better."
On the court, Stoudemire focuses on improving his lateral movement, ball handling, shooting ("He's focusing and getting even better than he was," Suns assistant Phil Weber said), one-on-one defense and defensive closeouts.
"He's made strong progress but I think we have to make sure he doesn't do too much so he doesn't have setbacks," Suns assistant Marc Iavaroni said.
"The urgency in his mind to get better, I know he feels it," Weber said. "It's one thing to do something in July with camp months away and it's another on Sept. 8 when you leave for camp in three weeks. It hasn't changed his work ethic. He's been dedicated all summer.
"There have been sightings (of vintage Stoudemire). He's got some of the pop."