Amare Trade Rumors: Time running out

With just over a day left in the STAT sweepstakes, these two big men could be trading places in a matter of hours.

The last couple of months filled with rumors, speculation and hypothetical trades from the ESPN Trade Machine all come down to this final 24 hours before the Feb. 18, 1 p.m. MST trade deadline. The questions remain:

Where will Amare Stoudemire go? Is the Cavaliers trade a joke? Are the 76ers still in the running? Can Miami bring in a third team? Will Amare even go anywhere? Can the Suns afford not to give him up?

After Phoenix’s convincing win over the Memphis Grizzlies last night, Paul Coro wrote that the visitors’ locker room in Memphis had a very strange feeling.

“In that same room,” Coro wrote, “there was also a feeling that Stoudemire might not play for the Suns Wednesday night in Dallas.”

With the Amare Stoudemire trade rumors coming as hard as ever, the big man can’t help but think about his potential destinations.

STAT must be salivating over the idea of teaming with LeBron James and Shaq or heading to South Beach to play the role of Dwyane Wade’s sidekick.

In fact, Yahoo! Sports had this to say about the situation:

Amar’e Stoudemire and the Phoenix Suns are no longer discussing a contract extension, and the All-Star forward was privately telling friends that he believes he’s played his last game in a Suns uniform on Wednesday night in Dallas, sources said.

The report also said that Steve Kerr and STAT’s agent, Happy Walters, were “far apart in talks” and that a trade is the most likely scenario.

The ball is in Phoenix’s court in many instances, which is actually a pretty scary thought with Steve Kerr at the helm. Will he once again pull the trigger on a questionable deadline-deal a la Shaq/Marion, or will he stand pat like he did with STAT this summer?

Sources continue to say Miami is pushing hard, but all of the news is about the Cleveland Cavaliers at this point. Chris Broussard reported that the Cavs are waiting on the Suns to decide if they will pull the trigger on an Amare for J.J. Hickson, Zydrunas Ilgauskus and first-round pick trade. If it were me, I scoff at the offer and move on. But whether or not you make the deal is contingent on how positive the Suns are that Amare will jettison and opt out this summer, and that is seeming to be the most likely scenario.

Steve Kerr’s friendship with Danny Ferry certainly scares me into believing that this trade could actually come to fruition, and according to Broussard , STAT is the Cavs’ No. 1 target. League sources denied the notion that the Cavs had a concrete offer on the table for the Wizards’ Antawn Jamison, as they continue to wait on the Suns’ decision on Stoudemire.

Broussard also reports that the Suns have basically been shopping the Cavs’ trade around to the rest of the league, asking if anyone is willing to up the ante and offer a more desirable deal. Miami has tried to bring in a third team in Charlotte, but the Bobcats can’t offer anything to the Suns’ liking.

J.A. Adande reported last night that according to an NBA source, the Heat are offering Mario Chalmers, Quentin Richardson, Daequan Cook, Dorell Wright and draft picks for STAT. Ummm, no thank you. No Beasley, no deal. The Heat have expressed a slight willingness to take on Jason Richardson’s contract, and if Miami added Jermaine O’Neal’s $23 million expiring contract to the deal, both sides could certainly make the numbers work.

But that would be shipping out Amare for pure financial relief, which in my eyes would be one of the biggest mistakes in Phoenix Suns franchise history.

The Amare sweepstakes is now seemingly a three-horse race, with Cleveland in the lead, Miami trying its best to get some help and make up some ground, and Philadelphia in the back as the sleeper team.

The only problem is, the team that is most serious about the deal probably has the worst to offer. To deal Amare, you have to get back a player that is either ready to contribute near an All-Star level, or someone who will unquestionably reach that status in a matter of years. I’m sorry, but J.J. Hickson is not that guy. The upside is there and fans in Cleveland seem to love him, but the fact that they are screaming for Amare has to say something.

He may become a serviceable big man, but I really don’t see him being better than a Brandon Bass type, with a little more athleticism.

At least with a Sixers deal, you get Andre Igoudala, who has proven himself in the league and would bring freakish athleticism to the wing spot, along with defense on the perimeter. How lockdown would this unit be after Jason Richardson and Dalembert expire: Dragic-Iguodala-Dudley-Clark-Lopez? Add in some free agents in 2011 and you have yourself a team.

But that ship seems to have sailed, with Philly reluctant to give up Iguodala. Miami, however, is still pushing hard, and Mark Stein reported that the Suns are actually OK with taking back Beasley. But Beasley hasn’t been rumored in any deals as of late, raising questions as to whether or not the Heat are willing to part ways with their former No. 2 overall pick, or whether the Suns aren’t sold on the K-State product.

We are in the home stretch of the Amare Stoudemire trade deadline sweepstakes. As it stands, the Suns will mull over the Cleveland deal until the last second, the Heat will try to make one final push (with what parts is left to be seen), and the Sixers may take one more stab, but it is unlikely at this point.

I don’t see Kerr making the Cleveland deal as it stands, but if the consensus within the organization is that Amare is gone after this season (which is what it looks like), with the inconsistency that this team has shown all season, the Suns may have no other option. Either ride this team out for the rest of the season as it stands and see where they finish, or take the best deal possible and be thankful that you at least got something for Amare.

The latter seems more likely at this point, but for the sake of the franchise, let’s just hope that Hickson, Ilgauskas and picks and spare parts isn’t the best deal when 1 p.m. rolls around tomorrow.

UPDATE: Amare’s agent thinks he will be dealt

According to ESPN, Amare Stoudemire’s agent Happy Walters told The Associated Press today that he expects STAT to be dealt by tomorrow’s trade deadline. Walters said that it isn’t logical for the Suns not to deal Amare, as he will most likely leave for free agency after the season.

“We’re not that far apart,” Walters said of contract negotiations between Stoudemire and the Suns that reportedly came to a halt last weekend, “but I think they’ve decided to go in another direction.”

He also said that Stoudemire thinks that tonight’s game against the Dallas Mavericks will be his last in a Phoenix Suns uniform.

“It’s going to be emotional,” Walters said. “… He really does love the team and he knows he’s playing with one of the best point guards ever.”

UPDATE:  Miami not impressing Phoenix

ESPN’s Chad Ford reported this afternoon that the Cavaliers are still the frontrunner in the Amare sweepstakes and are waiting for the Suns to respond to their offer. The Miami Heat have left the Suns unimpressed with their offers, as they still haven’t dangled Michael Beasley or either of their two first-round picks in any deal. However, according to a source, the Heat are the only team the Suns have given permission to talk to STAT’s agent.

A Suns source told this to ESPN:

“I’m not sure Miami is willing to pay the price for Amare. We have to get something for him. We’re not giving him away. If Miami gets serious, then I think they would get him. But right now, they are not showing they’re serious.”

The same source said that there is a possibility Amare could stay put, as the Suns “haven’t been blown away with an offer yet.”

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