A week after giving center Amare Stoudemire a five-year, $73 million extension, the Phoenix Suns will have to wait at least four months for his ferocious slam dunks and intimidating presence. Stoudemire, the preps-to-pros wunderkind who blossomed into an all-star in his third NBA season, underwent surgery to repair damage to his left knee yesterday and isn't expected to return until after the all-star break.

"It's not the news we wanted to hear," Suns President Bryan Colangelo said at a news conference in Phoenix yesterday.

Stoudemire, who will turn 23 next month, was held out of the final two days of training camp with soreness in the knee. An MRI exam revealed a "joint surface defect" in his left knee several weeks ago, but as symptoms got worse, the team opted for surgery over a lingering condition throughout the season.

"The surgery went well and other than the defect that we treated today, Amare's knee is remarkably and structurally healthy," Suns physician Tom Carter said in a statement released by the team.

The 6-foot-10, 245-pound center was named second-team all-NBA behind Shaquille O'Neal after averaging 26 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.63 blocks last season. He averaged 29.9 points and 10.7 rebounds in the playoffs -- including 37 points per game in the Western Conference finals.

The loss of Stoudemire will give the Suns a dramatically different look from the run-and-gun, high-scoring unit that won a league-best 62 games and advanced to the conference finals. Steve Nash, last season's most valuable player, and all-star swingman Shawn Marion are the only starters remaining from that team.

"We lost our biggest weapon, but we have a lot of others," Suns Coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters. "We're not hanging our heads at all."

-- Michael Lee