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Open court (cont.)

Posted: Friday October 5, 2007 11:22AM; Updated: Friday October 5, 2007 1:13PM
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Amaré Stoudemire could return in time for the regular-season opener after undergoing the third knee surgery of his career.
Amaré Stoudemire could return in time for the regular-season opener after undergoing the third knee surgery of his career.
John W. McDonough/SI
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Should the Suns be worried that Amaré Stoudemire's right knee (not the left on which he underwent microfracture surgery two years ago about this time) was scoped for the second time?

That's a yes. And if we had space to print that response in 48-point type, we would do it.

Issues with this "other knee" crept into the Stoudemire picture almost immediately after the major surgery in '05. He began complaining of pain throughout his post-surgery rehab and eventually had that knee scoped in April 2006.

Yes, the medical prognosis is good, the secret hope being that Stoudemire will even be ready for the opener. And he played in all 82 games last season, suggesting that the left knee is fine. But that is three cuts on a 24-year-old player. And as talented as Stoudemire is, he has been a defensive liability on a team that didn't get any stronger in that department with the departure of Kurt Thomas to Seattle. If he has to rest the knee during games, it's going to be on the defensive end and that concerns the Suns.

What up-and-coming player is most likely to take The Leap?

We call it The Leap to distinguish it from The Jump, the title of a fine book by Ian O'Connor about Sebastian Telfair, who has, to date, made neither leap nor jump and probably won't do it this season in Minnesota, his third team.

My choice is easy: Utah's Deron Williams. He lifted his scoring average from 10.8 as a rookie to 16.2 last season, not an easy thing to do with Jerry Sloan watching you, the shadow of John Stockton omnipresent. Williams's assist-to-turnover ratio is as good as Steve Nash's. He averaged 25.8 points in five conference final games against the San Antonio Spurs. And though the all-around play and leadership of Jason Kidd was the talk of Team USA camp this past summer, there were lots of times when players and coaches shook their head at the talent and composure of his point-guard backup.

Will Isiah Thomas be coaching the Knicks at season's end?

You didn't think we could get out of here without a Knicks question, did you?

Anyone who believes he has an answer to this one is dreaming. A season's worth of soap opera could play out at Madison Square Garden before the end of the calendar year. So this is just a guess, but I'm going to say yes.

First of all, Thomas isn't a bad coach. (It's that general manager and handler-of-people thing that gives him some trouble.) Further, I can see the Knicks banding together behind their embattled coach -- I can almost hear the we-don't-get-no-respect comments emanating from the locker room. (That ignores the fact that the Knicks don't deserve respect, of course.)

But most of all, MSG chairman James Dolan -- who came across worse than Isiah in deposition tapes during the unsavory civil trial in which a jury found that Thomas sexually harassed former Knicks executive Anucha Browne Sanders --will retain Thomas as along as possible, if only to thumb his nose at his enemies, who, at this point, are too numerous to count.

Jack McCallum is the author of "Seven Sconds or Less: My Season on the Bench with the Runnin' and Gunnin' Phoenix Suns," a behind-the-scenes account of the Suns' 2005-06 season. Click here to order a copy.

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