Amare Stoudemire: From almost dealt to dominant

Posted by on March 10th, 1:42 pm

After hearing his name every day in headlines for weeks, Amare Stoudemire is currently in beast mode. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Exactly 41 days ago Phoenix Suns power forward Amare Stoudemire sat with his arms crossed, warmups on and a towel around his neck as he watched his team outscore the Dallas Mavericks 28-16 in the fourth quarter en route to a 112-106 victory. The 2002-03 Rookie of the Year turned five-time NBA All-Star sat for the final 12 minutes of the game, contemplating his future with the team that took a chance on him in 2002.

For weeks and weeks headlines of NBA rumor Web sites read: “Stoudemire headed to Cleveland?” and “Miami making a late push for Amare.” As every day passed, a new trade scenario popped up. The NBA Trade Machine became everybody’s favorite toy, and the idea of an Andre Iguoudala or Michael Beasley intrigued Suns fans and bloggers alike.

Amare admitted that he allowed the swirling trade rumors to affect his play, and his stats echoed that statement. He managed to grab only one rebound in 27 minutes during the Dallas game and averaged only 6.1 boards in the eight games prior, prompting head coach Alvin Gentry to say:

“We have to have him rebound better. We said right from the start that — he, Robin (Lopez) and Channing (Frye) — we need the combination of those guys to come up with 17-20 rebounds for us. They haven’t done that for us in the last few games, so we’ve got have Amare step it back up, really.”

But after the buzzer sounded in US Airways Center on Jan. 28 against the Mavericks, something changed. There were still 20 days until the trade deadline and the trade rumors were picking up, yet the lightbulb came on for STAT, as he handled the rumors with class by just focusing on playing basketball.

For a man who overcame the death of his father at age 12, the jail time of his mother as a teen, six different high schools in four years, and ultimately two major knee surgeries and a vision-threatening eye surgery, bouncing back from adversity is nothing new.

And STAT did exactly that. Three nights after the Dallas benching, Amare exploded for 36 points and 11 boards in an overtime victory against the Rockets. And from that point on, the onslaught hasn’t stopped.

In the six games between his benching and the Feb. 18 trade deadline, Stoudemire posted four double-doubles, while averaging 26.0 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. During that time the Suns went 5-1, with all five wins coming on the road.

“The last week or week and a half, he’s just been playing,” coach Alvin Gentry told The Associated Press after a win over the Hawks on Feb. 19. “He’s put it all behind him. He played well. I’m proud of the way he’s handled the situation. I think he’s done great.”

The trade deadline passed, and despite an almost-imminent deal to the Cavs for J.J. Hickson and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Stoudemire remained a Sun. Now let’s fast forward a bit. Since the Amare benching against the Mavs, the Suns are 13-4 and have won or tied the rebounding battle in 14 of those 17 games.

STAT has been an absolute monster, and his increase in boards is a huge reason for the Suns’ recent success. In February STAT averaged 25.3 points and 10.1 rebounds. Four games into March Amare has upped the ante, averaging 27.3 points and 9.3 rebounds. But those averages don’t even tell how ridiculous he’s been during the last month and a half.

Amare is doing more than just putting opponents on posters. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

Amare is doing more than just putting opponents on posters. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

The offense is to be expected out of a prolific scorer like Amare, but it is the added defense and rebounding that have put the Suns over the top. Just look at his rebounding output at the beginning of the season to gauge his improvement on the glass. STAT recorded only three double-digit rebounding games during the first 18 games of the season. Over the last 17 games, Amare has recorded nine double-digit rebounding games, including games with 17 and 14 (three times).

He’s been everywhere, and it’s no coincidence that the Suns are playing their best basketball of the season while he is on this tear. When the trade rumors were flaring, it was easy to get caught up in potential new names and faces in purple and orange. But I argued that Amare shouldn’t be overlooked and taken for granted. ValleyoftheSuns readers apparently agree, as 83 percent of the 763 voters in our poll as of this writing think that not trading STAT was the right call.

His future in Phoenix after this season is still uncertain, but about three weeks have passed since the trade deadline and Stoudemire is still playing some of the best all-around basketball of his career. He handled the trade rumors with class, and he’s been all over the boards while dropping 30 on a nightly basis.

Stoudemire has overcome yet another obstacle, and has the Suns sitting in fifth place in an extremely competitive Western Conference. There was never any question that Amare had the skills and ability to do what he’s doing, he just needed a fire to be lit, which came from the Dallas benching and constant trade rumors.

Regardless of whether or not Stoudemire’s recent tear has been fueled by the extra dollars he could see in 2010 and the idea of playing with LeBron or Dwyane Wade, the Suns are winning, and all is well on Planet Orange for now.

Mike Schmitz

Mike Schmitz is a former ValleyoftheSuns writer who now works as an assistant video coordinator for the D-League\\’s Bakersfield Jam. He specialized in video breakdowns for VotS.

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Tags: Amare Stoudemire · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis · Rebounding

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 The Z. Man // Mar 10, 2010 at 7:24 am

    That was a brilliant move by Gentry to give him a seat in the 4th quarter of the Mavs game.

    Then there is that old YMCA dude. You know the one that gave Nash that left handed scoop move.

    From my court side seat (like the Lakers' "Jack"), I have been giving STAT the respect and love and fire. Just know that I'm disappointed in all the fair weather Suns fans. You know the ones. They play with their trade machine. When STAT was introduced in the Hawks game, JUST AFTER THE TRADE DEADLINE PASSED, the crowd was VERY quiet …it was UGLY!!!! So, I took it upon myself to let him know that at least one Suns fan is glad he is still here (and again after the Denver game). When I did that, he was so overjoyed that he did not just walk off the floor, but, left with a huge smile on his face, skipping (like kids) towards the locker room. Even went as far as thanking Mr. Sarver. If we want to see his best, we MUST do our best.

    Hill and Nash and STAT want a shot at a ring. They are very good examples for our young guys. Suns are getting good energy from our vets and our young guys. Now get ready for the Energizer Bunny (a.k.a. the Brazilian Blur). He very badly wants to be part of this. Suns play their best ball (and get most wins) when Barbosa plays along side Nash.

    MUST start and also finish with LB. Let's go SUNS!!!!

  • 2 Michael // Mar 10, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Hey Z. Man, ive been reading your responses to these posts. And I have agreed with mostly everything you have said. including start and finish with LB. Until now, I'm thinking that might not be the best thing, as Jrich has been a huge contribution as of late. Sure, his scoring, but i could careless about his scoring. He is rebounding very well. LB isnt a rebounder really, and he wouldnt be in the key fighting for boards either like Jrich is. I think it would be best for LB to stay on the bench and come in as backup sg for Jrich and have goran set him up, while having LB and nash on the floor every once in awhile, and see how that plays out.

  • 3 $-The Moneyman-$ // Mar 11, 2010 at 2:33 am

    And why can't he do this every game?

  • 4 Remaining stretch crucial to Suns' postseason | Valley of the Suns // Mar 11, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    [...] point. The Suns are 14-4 since (sounds awfully familiar to that 14-3 start, huh?). Amare Stoudemire turned it on, the Suns started out-rebounding opponents and even with a slew of injuries, the Suns have played [...]

  • 5 fodeep.com » Blog Archive » Suns News & Notes. Every Game Matters Edition. // Mar 11, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    [...] We need all hands on deck for the remainder of the season. Leandro Barbosa is back, so is Goran Dragic. Steve Nash says he is better but I have a feeling he is not 100% just yet. You know who is healthy and playing awesome? Amare Stoudemire. STAT is playing great basketball at just the right time. And to think we were trying to trade him a few weeks ago. From valleyofthesuns.com; [...]

  • 6 Suns 120, Hornets 106 -- Suns handle Hornets at home| Valley of the Suns // Mar 14, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    [...] than 30 minutes of action. He posted only four 30-plus games before the All-Star break, but has bounced back from trade rumors in a big way with his fourth 30-plus effort in the last five games. Over his last seven games Amare [...]

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