MIAMI (AP) -When Phoenix center Amare Stoudemire awoke Friday morning, he felt no pain in his right knee.
``Always important to wake up feeling good,'' Stoudemire said.
With that, he decided it was time for a return to the Suns' high-powered lineup.
Ending a three-game hiatus because of soreness in his surgically repaired knee, Stoudemire started against the Miami Heat on Friday night. He took part in some hard drills on Thursday, got loose with ease at the team's morning shootaround and said the knee ``felt great.''
``It was just a matter of time,'' Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. ``Now it's just getting our team together and getting a little bit better, so it's good to have him back.''
The Suns went 2-1 without Stoudemire, who had arthroscopic surgery on the knee last month to remove a loose particle. He played some hard sessions of three-on-three in practice on Thursday, and felt no residual effects on Friday - to his relief.
``Today's one of my better days,'' Stoudemire said.
He had 23 points and 11 rebounds in Phoenix's season-opening win against Seattle, but was largely ineffective the next night in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, finishing with seven points on 2-for-10 shooting and one rebound in 24 minutes.
Stoudemire hadn't played since. But his presence makes the potent Suns even tougher.
``Amare is just a load to handle down there,'' Miami coach Pat Riley said. ``He's so athletic. ... He's got great hands, he runs, he's very athletic. He makes the whole game different for them.''
The two-time All-Star played in only three games of the 2005-06 season because of microfracture surgery on his left knee. He returned strongly last year, playing in all 82 regular-season games and averaging 20.4 points and a career-high 9.6 rebounds. Stoudemire also shot 57.5 percent last year, another career best.
Stoudemire had surgery on the right knee once previously, also to remove some debris.
``It's just a matter of taking time and getting back at it,'' Stoudemire said. ``You rehab right, you maintain your strength and take your time getting back.''
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