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Is Amare Stoudemire now available?

by

Jan 31

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

Amare Stoudemire and Leandro Barbosa for Drew Gooden, Tyrus Thomas, Kirk Hinrich, Thabo Sefolosha and a draft pick?

Would you do it?

I’m suddenly getting the feeling the Suns might.

I’ve long thought any trade involving Stoudemire was highly doubtful until after this season, until the Suns, whom the Bulls face here Saturday, had a chance to at least play a full season and a playoff run with Stoudemire and Shaquille O’Neal.

Plus, it seems sure next season is the final one in Phoenix for O’Neal and Steve Nash, both well into their 30′s with expiring contracts. So why trade the 26-year-old All Star?

It didn’t make any sense.

But there was an interesting story in Saturday’s Arizona Republic which had me having second thoughts. It was written by Paul Coro, the longtime and plugged in Suns beat writer.

Coro noted Stoudemire’s opt out clause after next season and the chance for Stoudemire to leave as a free agent or sign a deal starting at $19.5 million. We all knew this. Coro also noted the Suns not fighting for the Western championship but to make the playoffs. We’ve noticed that.

He writes: “If the Suns are ever going to trade Stoudemire, the time would be in the coming days.”

Hello! That was an eye opener.

“Internally,” he wrote, “there have been frustrations with his inability to progress as a defender, rebounder, willing passer or even solid screener in his seventh season. There is a feeling that the Suns already have seen how far riding Stoudemire as a top scorer can take them, particularly as his game edges toward a reliance on perimeter shots with Shaquille O’Neal in his lanes. Stoudemire has never clicked in the locker room with teammates much beyond pleasantries. No big-man coach tutelage, from Marc Iavaroni to Bill Cartwright, has connected the dots for him. And while he keeps a global following, the Valley’s Suns fans have become more annoyed with his erratic play and consistent braggadocio.”

It was even more interesting because I know how beat writers work.

A beat writer has to retain access and communication with the team to survive. So there are many things a beat writer knows that he or she cannot write. A beat writer, while not generally knowing the inside workings of the team, knows from being around a team the general feelings, especially a good one like Coro.

He writes in the next paragraph a trade might make sense for the Suns as a way to avoid the luxury tax, to be a player in 2010 free agency and “boost a team battling for playoff life by removing one of the open mouths Steve Nash must feed offensively. A lineup of career featured scorers could use a selfless role player with a defensive commitment, especially if a deal brought a young prospect to an aging team.”

That suggests to me an internal scenario being created to perhaps trade Stoudemire and which isn’t so secret any more.

A lot of that squares with some things you’ve heard around the NBA, about Suns owner Robert Sarver, who is in the banking business, having some financial worries and teams not in the championship race, like Denver last year giving away Marcus Camby, making moves to get under the prohibitive luxury tax if they are no longer competing for a title.

If Stoudemire, indeed, becomes available—and there have been vague rumors for a few weeks now—it would give some team the chance to get a head start on one of the big stars of the free agency class of 2010. It’s a risk, of course, as Stoudemire could still walk in 2010, has had microfracture surgery and has proven difficult to deal with in Phoenix and an extremely poor defender.

Though how good would he look running a pick an roll with Derrick Rose?

And the chance for a big city team like the Bulls to make a strike with a player regarded as a true star in the NBA. Who playing with an unselfish player like Rose could be a major star in a major market, which seems to be what Stoudemire is seeking.

The Suns less than two years ago were refusing to deal Stoudemire for Kevin Garnett when the Timberwolves were looking for trading partners. Minnesota did get Al Jefferson, which is making that deal at least now look a bit better for them.

I figured there was a chance you could make a run at Stoudemire and some of the other big 2010 names after this season.

But the way this season has gone for the Suns, and seeing what the media writer closest to the Suns is floating, it occurs to me now that Stoudemire may well now be in play. Critics say he hasn’t won anything and the Suns have been out in the first round of the playoffs more than usual. Yet, Stoudemire has been an integral part of one of the great runs in recent NBA history and perhaps a fateful walk off the bench away from an NBA title.

Though the Suns were losing to the Spurs again this past week. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said his team still hasn’t figured out a way to stop Stoudemire, who is averaging 21 points and eight rebounds. I haven’t heard that Stoudemire is being shopped. But his calls earlier this season to be “the man” were upsetting around the Suns, and many of the internal stories you hear were similar to the ones that helped lead to the Suns trade of Shawn Marion.

This is shaping up as a huge two weeks to come in the NBA and perhaps for the Bulls.

What do you think? Leave a comment below: