During training camp, Suns assistant coach Bill Cartwright talked about
a need for the team’s stars – Steve Nash, Jason Richardson and Amar’e
Stoudemire – to play like stars this season.
Nash often is brilliant offensively, although the burden of being the
team’s only playmaker is draining. In crunch time of Tuesday’s loss to
Charlotte, seven consecutive possessions ended in his hands, with more
failure than success. He is committing more turnovers than ever and
deep team-defense problems start at the top with him.
Richardson was acquired to provide explosive scoring. The Suns are 12-18 since Dec. 1, and he has shot 41.2 percent from the field and 29.5 percent from 3-point range since then. On Tuesday, he missed his last nine shots and passed up others.
But nobody is incurring more internal disappointment than Stoudemire, whose teammates wondered after recent games about his effort and focus. Stoudemire has said trade talk would not affect him, but his energy on the court has made him look as though he’s halfway packed and ready to leave. It has reached the point that the Suns are more inclined to trade him before the Feb. 18 deadline if a palatable deal arises.
At least nine teams are exploring a trade for Stoudemire. The Suns met with Stoudemire’s agent a week ago but have not made him an extension offer and won’t approach his desire for a five-year, maximum-salary deal.
On Saturday, Stoudemire was outplayed by Golden State’s Anthony Tolliver, a D-League call-up. On Monday, Utah Jazz forward Carlos Boozer
had 20 rebounds against the Suns, as many as Stoudemire has in the past four games combined.
On Tuesday, the Suns ran the first play for Stoudemire, and it capsulated how he does not look like the same explosive, fearless player. He struggled on a misfired drive and lasted 5:40 in the first half before leaving because of foul trouble.