Amare should skip back-to-backs upon return
Charles Barkley is at his best at getting to the heart of the matter and dispensing tough love to players and teams. He’s at his worst in examining complex questions with several variables. His advice to Amare Stoudemire not to return to action this season from preseason microfracture knee surgery is indicative of Barkley’s inability to make subtle distinctions.
For Barkley, all knees and microfracture surgeries are created equal. But they’re not. His favorite example, Chris Webber, wasn’t ready after 10 months. He, like Penny Hardaway, had a really bad knee. Jason Kidd, on the other hand, had a defect to a part of the knee that doesn’t bear weight. He returned after about 6 months and looked very much like his old self. He played limited minutes for the first month or so, but was soon playing his regular quota. That was last season. This season has been more of the same. He hasn’t missed a game and looks exactly like Jason Kidd.
Like Kidd, Amare’s knee had a minor defect, albeit one that can only be corrected through surgery. The Suns don’t seem to be pushing him to return prematurely, and Amare is the rare player who won’t let himself be pushed and knows just how risky and stupid it is to come back too soon or play too many minutes too soon after surgery.
It looks like he will indeed be ready for NBA action later this month, if his rehab continues on schedule with no setbacks. To reduce the likelihood of a setback after he returns, my advice to the Suns is to not play him on consecutive nights. From March 20 to the end of the season they have only four sets of back-to-backs, and there’s absolutely no reason to find out now if his knee can handle back-to-backs; that can wait till next season. Any unnecessary duress that could lead to swelling and/or pain should be avoided. There are no back-to-backs in the playoffs, when the games really count. The objective is to get his mind, body and game ready for those widely spaced postseason games.
The wise course when he returns to action within the next few weeks is to start him out at about 20 minutes, with the goal of progressing to 32 or so by the end of the regular season, assuming he encounters no physical problems. I expect Amare to be a dynamic contributor this postseason as the Suns win their first NBA crown.