Bulls All-Star pot pourri from Stoudemire to Paxson


Feb 13

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Amare who?

So I’m headed to All-Star weekend to get the inside stuff on Amare Stoudemire and whether by next week he’ll be a Bull, and suddenly Bulls fans don’t care. Well, don’t care first.

Amare, by the way, was voluminous when he met reporters here Friday, and I’ll have more in a later post.

Here’s a sampling: “I do see them keeping me. It’s possible. I’m leaning more towards 60-40, with 60 them keeping me. I don’t know, man. I would love to stay in Phoenix. My whole career has been here. My fan base is here. I’m totally in the loop on what’s going on. It’s a business. You don’t know how it’s going to play out. You just have to stay focused and positive. They’re saying it’s a financial decision. It’s hard for them to afford all our players. Everyone is on the trading block according to them. I don’t know if they’re giving up on the season or we’re trying to win a championship here. I’m not sure. In the middle (of all the rumors), are you kidding me? I’m on top. There are a lot of rumors about Chicago, Cleveland, Miami. I think any team I go to, I have a lot to bring to the table. I never worry. That’s one thing I do. I know from a basketball standpoint, I’m always going to work hard.”

Stoudemire was eloquent despite being grilled by reporters for at least 30 minutes, especially about the dysfunction facing his Suns.

As I heard him talk and heard the talk going around, it sounded more and more like the Suns might just wise up and keep Stoudemire. The rumors were coach Terry Porter could be let go with assistant Alivin Gentry taking over and a new push with the group that’s there, including opening up the game with Gentry, who worked closely with former coach Mike D’Antoni.

In any case, we’ve got a few days for that one as the bigger rumor, especially for Bulls fans, was the report by the New York Post’s Peter Vecsey that Bulls general manager John Paxson would be stepping down after the trading deadline.

The report produced all sorts of speculation from Paxson being fed up with the team to health problems.

Shortly after that, the Bulls released a statement from managing partner Jerry Reinsdorf that said: “Pete Vecsey is not a credible enough source to comment on. Two weeks ago he had John being fired. Now he has him resigning. Someday Vescey might get something right, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day.”

I don’t think anything actually happened, and my sense is nothing major has changed. Paxson has expressed concerns about the job for some time since the firing of Scott Skiles last season. Though when I spoke with a number of general managers recently for a story here about the job, just about all expressed reservations. I haven’t gotten the sense that anything is imminent or about to change dramatically with the Bulls, and everything I’ve heard suggests Paxson isn’t going anywhere.

It was just a few weeks ago when Reinsdorf appeared on Comcast SportsNet to give Paxson his unqualified support.

“When you have a team that’s not performing, it’s an organization failure,” Reinsdorf said. “You win and you lose as an organization. But if there’s one person that is not responsible for what’s going on right now, it’s John Paxson. I have tremendous confidence in John Paxson. He’s really one of the best people that I know. He’s a great general manager and a great judge of talent. I just worry that he not be too hard on himself. He takes all of this very, very seriously.”

The first trade of the week came down Friday when the Raptors dealt Jermaine O’Neal And Jamario Moon to the Miami Heat for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks. The Heat also get a conditional first round pick and Toronto gets the maximum $3 million in cash, so it, effectively, is like buying a draft pick.

I don’t quite understand the trade for Miami as the move means they, effectively, traded Shaquille O’Neal for Jermaine O’Neal a year removed. The key is the expiring contracts with Marion’s $17.8 million coming off the books this summer and Jermaine’s after the 2009-10 season. It doesn’t put Miami out of the bidding for the 2010 free agents, but I’d rather save the money after this season by letting Marion go. Though Heat president Pat Riley has talked about wanting to get away from the small team he now has.

The question is how big Jermaine is anymore.

He is injured often and doesn’t have much explosion anymore to be a dominant big man. Though with Dwyane Wade, perhaps it’s unnecessary. Riley clearly believes the Heat can make a run this season while Toronto has collapsed with the acquisition of O’Neal and it seems a last ditch effort to make a run for the playoffs with Andrea Bargnani moving to center and Marion at small forward.

Also, in no big surprise Michael Jordan headed a field of 16 finalists for the Basketball Hall of Fame. The announcement of the inductees, which is sure to include Jordan in his first time eligible, will be in April. This may be one of the biggest classes ever with other finalists including David Robinson, John Stockton, Don Nelson. Jerry Sloan, Dennis Johnson, Bernard King, Al Attles, Chris Mullin and Johnny “Red” Kerr, just recently honored by the Bulls and the Hall of Fame with the lifetime achievement award.

Meanwhile, there was a rumor the Bulls were talking about a trade involving Zach Randolph. Not true.

So let’s get back to the vital matters of the day: Amare?

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