You can tell the end of a relationship is near when there are no more
denials, and the Phoenix Suns-Amare Stoudemire relationship has definitely
reached the truth-telling stage.
Suns general manager Steve Kerr doesn’t try to shoot down the rampant
trade rumors about Stoudemire, nor does Stoudemire sing a nostalgic
song about wanting to play his entire career in a Suns uniform.
"I’m 50-50," Stoudemire said before the Suns played the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night. "They’ve shopped me around for two maybe three years. It’s not a great feeling to feel that way. I feel like the confidence in me is not quite there within them, for them to want to shop me around so much."
Stoudemire has a player option for next season worth $17.7 million. If he elects to become a free agent instead he might not be able to make that much in the first year of a new contract, but he’d still be better off securing a long-term contract under the current collective bargaining agreement than signing his next contract under the new CBA in 2011, which is expected to be less favorable for players.
Another option would be tacking an extension onto his current contract, but talks between the Suns and Stoudemire’s agents haven’t brought them closer to an agreement that would keep him here.
So pick a region of the country and there’s been a rumored trade that would send Stoudemire there.
"Obviously with a player of Amare’s caliber, an All-Star player, when the rumor mill starts it’s tough to stop, because he’s such a high-profile player," said Kerr, who didn’t exactly try to apply the brakes. "Especially when a guy is a free agent at the end of the year, potentially. That’s why you’re going to see Amare and Chris Bosh in the news here the next few weeks. It’s just business as usual. We always look at this as, ‘How can we make our team better?’ Re-signing Amare long-term, or any other option, whatever we do is going to be designed to make our team better."
The immediate impact of the speculation without resolution made Stoudemire worse. A 55 percent shooter on the season, he went 15-for-37 over three games before the Suns played the Mavericks.
"It’s tough, man," Stoudemire said. "But I think the most important thing is to try to stay focused. It’s not easy but you’ve got to find somehow, some way to do it."
And if the end is approaching, he’s already a little remorseful that the promise of this team was never fulfilled. Whether it was injuries, untimely suspensions in the playoffs or salary-saving trades, we’ll always feel that this Suns team left a lot on the table.
"I don’t think the potential of this team was ever seen," Stoudemire said. "One year we traded Joe Johnson, then we traded Shawn Marion, then we traded Shaq. Every year it’s been something different. We never really had a chance to have the full potential of this team. I’m not sure of the route we’re taking, but right now we have to worry about the present, so we can turn the season around and continue to win."