Thursday , May , 12 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Suns’ Johnson has eye surgery; will miss Game 3

Phoenix, AZ (Sports Network) – Phoenix Suns guard Joe Johnson underwent
successful surgery on Thursday to repair a displaced fracture of his left
orbital bone, which he suffered in Game 2 of his team’s 108-106 loss to the
Dallas Mavericks at America West Arena in the Western Conference semifinals.

Johnson will not play in Friday’s Game 3 in Dallas and is expected to miss
Game 4 on Sunday as well.

The 23-year-old Johnson, who has yet to miss a game for Phoenix since
being acquired in February of 2002, was fouled hard by Dallas’ Jerry
Stackhouse driving to the basket late in the first half, landing face-first
on the court. Johnson, who was cut near the left eye, stayed on the floor
for several minutes and an intentional foul was called.

“I don’t want to hurt anybody and it wasn’t intentional,” Stackhouse said. “I
was just challenging him. I had all ball. It was his momentum holding onto the
rim and he just came down. It was unfortunate. I hope he’s fine and he comes
back. He’s a key part of this series.”

In order to stay in the game, Johnson had to shoot the free throws. He did and
made 1-of-2.

“He was pretty out of it,” head athletic trainer Aaron Nelson told Suns.com.
“We were trying to ask him questions to find out how severe a concussion it
was. So we were like, ‘Can you shoot the free throws?’ and he was like, ‘Yeah,
yeah, let’s go.’ So I put (sterile) strips on his eye. I told him, ‘don’t open
your eye.’ That’s probably why he missed the first one, and then the second
one he was able to zoom in and hit it.”

Johnson, who had eight points, left the game after shooting the free throws
and received six stitches to close the cut. He has been an integral part of
the Suns postseason success, as he averaged 21.2 points through his first
five playoff games.

“We need (Johnson). He’s one of the best perimeter defenders we have,” said
Phoenix forward Shawn Marion. “We’re going to miss him, but we’ve got to
step it up until he comes back, and try to hold the fort down.”

Veteran Jim Jackson, acquired by Phoenix in a mid-season trade, will likely
move into the starting lineup in Johnson’s absence.

“We couldn’t have asked for anybody better to take Joe’s spot,” said Suns head
coach Mike D’Antoni. “You obviously don’t want to have to be put in that
situation, but to have Jimmy Jackson is why we made the trade.”

PHO