: Amaré Stoudemire was accustomed to flying when he put on the NBA's most dynamic aerial displays before two knee surgeries.
He was the show's most fearless pilot but he probably won't make the next major flight. Stoudemire likely will not be among the 12 players of this week's 15 USA Basketball campers to get tickets to the World Championship.
Tonight's exhibition game against Puerto Rico, to be shown live on ESPN2 at 8, appears to be Stoudemire's final major test in his summer comeback program. It kicked into gear with his first five-on-five game five weeks ago and continued with lukewarm reviews at the Vegas Summer League and USA Basketball camp.
"Chances are, when we leave at the end of the week, that would probably be the end of it and that we wouldn't take him on the trip because he's just not physically far enough long," said USA Basketball senior men's team managing director Jerry Colangelo, who is also the Suns' chief executive officer and chairman. "But this was good for him. He did play up."
Stoudemire may have missed USA Basketball's exhibition tour in Korea and China and World Championship competition in Japan anyway. His first son (second child) is due in about a week. Family considerations aside, Stoudemire did not progress enough to help a team going for gold.
Stoudemire's lag continues to have more to do with a lack of his trademark explosiveness on the court. Healthwise, he has no swelling or pain in his surgically repaired knees.
"It is frustrating," Stoudemire said. "It's tough to take a back seat when you're used to being in the front seat. It's a matter of willpower. It's more of a mental thing when you know you're the head of your class and a knee surgery sets you back. I will be back to the head of the class."
Stoudemire had one standout day, the final intrasquad scrimmage of the camp's first week here, but is usually tentative to let go on the court. That is why he is playing this summer. The Suns would have a perplexing situation if he were going through these awkward stages, which he puts at 70 percent, during training camp in Europe.
"People have delusions if they think he's going to be 100 percent in October," Colangelo said. "In all likelihood, it's going to take him longer than that but as long as he's progressing and moving forward, it just takes time. It's not for lack of effort.
"He was given clearance. Now, it's a mental thing in my opinion."
For example, Stoudemire tried windmill dunks in practice to see how high he can get as he jumps from outside the paint.
"But as far as in traffic, I'm not comfortable yet," he said.
Now, Stoudemire will leave knowing what he needs to play like a star again.
"He's still got a lot of work to do in the weight room," D'Antoni said. "To get his pop back, he's got a ways to go. This has been great for him just to show him where he's at and the work he's got to do."