Will Amare Stoudemire opt to stay in Phoenix?

It was reported Wednesday by NBA FanHouse here and later by The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro here that Suns forward Amare Stoudemire is leaning toward not opting out of his contract after this season.

“That’s definitely an option,” Stoudemire told FanHouse of opting in for the final year of his contract and the $17.7 million that would come with it. “I’m leaning more toward that right now. Maybe opting in. … (That would be to) buy time. See how we do. … I think we got our game back on track.”

Stoudemire spoke to FanHouse after morning shootaround Wednesday in Denver. Stoudemire also said he believes his chances of being traded by the Feb. 18 trade deadline are “50-50,” but also said that he is “pretty sure [the Suns are] going to offer a deal here pretty soon.”

Stoudemire wouldn’t say yet if he would sign such a deal and added that he does not expect a maximum deal.

“I don’t know if the Suns are really willing to pay maximum deals period, whether it’s me or whoever,” Stoudemire told FanHouse.

Stoudemire couldn’t answer whether or not he would sign a deal that wasn’t for maximum money, nor would he say when he might make a decision about exercising his option.

It’s interesting that Stoudemire would say this now and to an out-of-town reporter. He could have said this much earlier, if it was in fact his feeling then, which would have potentially stifled some of the rumors that he was admittedly distracted by.

It could be that as the trade deadline inches closer, Stoudemire is looking to solidify his status and mindset. If he opts in for next year, he’s essentially committing to the Suns and can focus on making the postseason and beyond. If he doesn’t opt in any time soon and isn’t traded or offered an extension to his liking, he’s sort of a lame duck who might be inclined to focus his play on an offseason payday, be it from the Suns or another team.

The implications of Stoudemire opting in could be significant. The Suns would certainly be much less inclined to trade him, but might drag their feet even more on an extension. If that were the case, we could see the same Stoudemire trade/contract saga next season. An opt-in also makes Stoudemire tougher to trade, as some teams looking for cap relief would be looking to take on his contract and let it expire at the end of the season.

Hollinger on potential Amare trades

ESPN’s John Hollinger breaks down a handful of Amare trade scenarios.

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