Why the Suns must re-sign Amare Stoudemire

Amare Stoudemire has been a beast of late, dunking on everybody and averaging a 30 and 10 in March. (Alan Walsh/ValleyoftheSuns)

Amare Stoudemire has been a beast of late, dunking on everybody and averaging a 30 and 10 in March. (Alan Walsh/ValleyoftheSuns)

PHOENIX — We should be talking about the Suns’ 19-5 run up the Western Conference standings. We should be talking about seeding and who we might want the Suns to face. And we most certainly should be talking about the next-level tear Amare Stoudemire has been going on to spark the Suns’ win streak.

But the dark cloud looming over the positive developments of the last couple months is this: this could just be Amare’s going away present.

The most terrifying and greatest thing is happening before our very eyes: Amare Stoudemire is really starting to get it. He’s got a lethal low post game and a consistent jump shot, he’s finally rebounding the basketball at about the rate he should and he looks to be at least trying on defense. At the age of 27 and with free agency looming, Amare is finally becoming the player we all hoped he would become.

That’s why the Suns must sign him to an extension. I’ve been of the opinion for months that the Suns should not overreact either way, meaning I would be fine with a trade that fetched comparable value or a reasonable extension, but I didn’t think the Suns should give him away for cheap or give him max money.

(Quick tangent: how smart does Kerr look for not dealing Amare for J.J. Hickson and the pu pu platter or the crap Miami was offering up. Could you imagine watching Amare go on this tear in Cleveland or Miami? Would that be worth J.J. Hickson???)

That all changes now. The Suns absolutely cannot lose Amare Stoudemire no matter the cost (and my oh my will there ever be a hefty price tag).

The Suns have the cap space to sign one and only one elite free agent (yes, I’m going there with the ‘E’ word). His name is Amare Stoudemire, and if he leaves with no compensation in return the Suns won’t have enough cap space to replace him with anybody above the mid-level range, and nobody in that tax bracket is going to be averaging a 30 and 10 any time soon.

We’ve gone through future scenarios enough times that most of you should know the Suns could be set to make a splash in 2011, but there’s no guarantees anybody will come or that they will get a big even close to Amare.

STAT is averaging a 30 and 10 over his last 11 games on 58.7 percent shooting and is in the midst of a career scoring month, with seven 30-point games and a pair of 40-pointers. That is insane. If we go back to Jan. 31 against Houston, the day after his infamous fourth-quarter benching against Dallas and subsequent turnaround, Amare Stoudemire has averaged 27.7 points and 10.0 boards on 55.9 percent shooting over the course of 23 games. It’s no coincidence that the Suns are 18-5 in those 23 games, and that’s long enough that it’s not a hot streak but a trend.

If he would keep that up for a season, he would set career highs in scoring and rebounding, and the shooting percentage is in line with what Amare’s done in the past.

“He’s playing as well as I’ve seen him play,” said Suns head coach Alvin Gentry after a recent win.

During this run, we are watching the transition of the label of Suns franchise player go from Nash to Amare. Over the course of these past 23 monster games for Amare, Steve Nash has battled injuries and struggled to put up the MVP numbers we’re accustomed to out of him, averaging 12.9 points but still 11.5 assists per game.

This is no knock on Nash, he’s still been special this stretch, especially in terms of passing the basketball obviously. But he spent a chunk of the Suns’ hot streak in immense pain and physically wasn’t able to be the scoring threat he was at the beginning of the season. That was no problem with Captain Amare around.

During this time Amare has gone from a dynamic offensive player who wasn’t worth big bucks and who teams would only throw crap offers for to one of the top-10 players in the league. Yes, I went there. Amare has been that good over the course of the last couple months.

He’s able to get his points efficiently within the flow of the offense (you will never see a more efficient 40-point game than Friday against Utah when he missed just two field goals and two free throws all night), and he’s able to elevate his game when it matters most.

During the fourth quarter Monday in Golden State, Amare went into full-on “F You” mode to take a Bill Simmons term, exploding for 18 points in the period, including all seven during the Suns’ clinching run that turned a three-point deficit into a commanding four-point lead. I know, he was doing it against an undersized D-Leaguer, but Amare Stoudemire basically said through his actions that there was no way in hell that he was letting the Suns lose that basketball game, even corralling a Grant Hill free throw miss and knocking down a pair of freebies in the clutch. Oh, and there was that dunk you may have heard of.

In short, Amare was a superstar Monday in Oakland.

What’s most amazing is that this all has gone down in the aftermath of the Suns dangling him like a piece of meat, practically begging teams to take him off their hands. The old Amare mopes and barely would grab 10 rebounds in a week under those circumstances.

Judging by his actions, you would have no idea he was the hottest name on the trading block. Externally it hasn’t affected him at all. He’s been scoreboard watching more than anybody, pimping out the “Phoenix” after big plays, and wholly concentrating on the task at hands without letting his future affect matters.

That takes maturity, the kind of maturity Amare didn’t seem to have in him even a year ago.

“Just overall I think he’s just been really focused in,” Gentry said. “He’s been really good. He’s been focused into what he’s trying to get done, and then very efficient in doing it.”

Are we mistaking focus for a contract run for the ages? Perhaps. We know Amare has had multiple knee surgeries as well as that career-threatening eye surgery. We know it’s taken him years to show any semblance of effort on the boards and on the defensive end. We know this stellar run could all be a mirage.

But I’m willing to take the chance. A future with Robin Lopez, Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley and Earl Clark sounds nice, but that unit needs a headline star. Particularly now that the Suns have found a perfect complement in the frontcourt in Lopez, a player who can take on the opposition’s best big and make Amare better on the defensive end, it would be a shame to see it end.

Re-sign Amare and the immediate future with another couple years of Nash and Amare looks bright, as well as a future with the Suns’ young guns headlined by Amare.

Lose him and you have Nash wasting away on a squad that’s mediocre at best, with a future dependent on bringing in a star free agent in 2011.

The Suns should play that “ka-ching” sound they do for Jason Richardson every time Amare goes for 30 again, because his price is going nowhere but up. It seems obvious he will opt out, and he could price himself out of what the Suns are comfortable paying.

But after waiting for eight years for Amare to become this player, the Suns must offer enough zeroes to ensure this is the start of the Amare Stoudemire Franchise Player Era in Phoenix rather than just a high-flying tease.

Tags: Amar'e Stoudemire

  • asani

    i’ve been telling ya’ll that Amare it the best big man in the league but a lot of ya’ll act as thought you didn’t see it. I hope he stays here

  • Jacob

    You see Michael??? What did I tell you!? This is why it’s hard to be a GM! Things change and players change (one minute you can hate the way a player is playing and want to trade him then the next he’s slamming down jams over D-Leaguers!). It seems like not long ago, you wanted Stat out and Iggy in :). The fact is, there isn’t much talent like Amar’e these days, and he’s a surefire 20 points every season. Now I’m not saying his game is perfect by any standards, but part of managing a team is showing consistancy with your players so they show consistancy back. That’s how to progress in the league. A large reason why Amar’e is playing the well lately is because he KNOWS he can’t be moved for the rest of the year. Now, I’m not saying that’s the main reason for his success, but is it only coincidential that Amar’e puts up these numbers when he knows he’s not going to be traded? Just wanted to point that out.

  • Manuel Loera

    Amare the best big man hands down no questions suns must resign him always been my favorite player

  • chris

    The suns need to resign Amare he is a franchise player he plays like no other he will put big numbers on the bourd when u need him and dominate in the playoffs.If the suns dont resign him it will be the worst mistake they ever made.The way he plays he deserves max pay i think u should give it to him.

  • $-The Moneyman-$

    My biggest concern is not how STAT is playing now, he’s been incredible. I’m far more worried about how he played earlier this year. The biggest knock against STAT has always been effort sometimes, and I have to wonder if he would keep up his “Look at me, see how good I am, pay up” level of play after he signs that fat new contract.

  • http://espn.com Chazz

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I held my breath right up until the trade deadline passed because I knew there was no way the Suns were going to get fair value in return. As a fan of the Suns and Amare, I feel vindicated by his play. I hope Steve Kerr and Robert Sarver are taking notice and do the right thing: pay the man!

  • martinez

    well i love stat and i will be the first one to say i said trade him and well im left with wondering can he bring this next season? lets let the playoffs answer some questions huh?

    GO SUNS!!!!!!!!!

  • Drew

    This was one of the best posts you have ever written, Amare totally seems to get it, he realizes he can dominate on both sides of the court whenever he wants, he sees that Robin is the perfect compliment to his game, and there is no better situation for his game than right where he is. I do not think this is a last ditch effort for a contract because he knows no matter what he does he will get 17 million next year, he loves his teammates, and is playing the best bassketball of his life. We could not hope to sign a better free agent that Amare, and we need to sign him to a max extension, pronto. And by the way is Steve ok? he is still getting his assists but he does not loook comfortable out there, he looks like he is reacting instead of dictating. If Nash gets back to his usual self we will be a very hard out in the playoffs

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  • Kyle Fleeger

    I think that this is a really excellent idea. I have been writing for a while on ifiredterryporter.com that the Suns should realize what they have and give him a contract extension. Michael Would you rock an “Amar’e four more years campaign” button?

  • Kyle Fleeger

    Although, I don’t think it makes Steve Kerr smart to not have traded Amar’e, because he would have, and just because he knew better than to trade him for trash, isn’t really impressive.

  • The Z. Man

    Look what we got back for Shaq. ZERO.

    I'm actually very glad we are rid of Shaq. He messed up our game. Shaq was a detestable bully at practice and in the locker room. Kerr and Sarver were 100% right to move Shaq, in addition through subtraction, but they should have demanded to get more back. STAT is an entirely different matter and, this time, I give a high five to Kerr. Even at our last game, I thanked Sarver again for keeping Amare.

    STAT is still a grown man in body with a kid's mind. That is not a knock on him, just a fact. On many personal levels, it's good to see that youthful exhuberance, as was evident when I told him that we love him after the first game after the trade deadline passed (Hawks game.) After the next home game, it filled his somewhat broken heart with such delight that, after redelivering that face to face message to STAT, he left skipping away into the locker room. Most guys in their 20's are still just kids. Just saying this so that we understand what makes him tick. His heart is now filled with love for his team, for his fans, and even for the game. Flip side is that he can be easy to manipulate by some sleezy agent. STAT wants what is good for the Suns and, in his heart, he desperately wants to stay. Suns are the family he never had back in Florida. Now we learn that Lopez severely hurt his back. Oden, Ming, and other bigs tell us how injury prone big guys can be. Rolo may be out for the rest of this year. He may never play another NBA game. What STAT will be called upon to do in his absence is to take his already improved game up another step. At this point, STAT will need to take only a baby step. Frye will be asked to take his game up a huge step. So will Louis and Earl. Liked the way each of them played in their last game. Even before the reemergence of STAT's dominant game, we were winning early this year, when Lopez could not play because of his foot. That was when we still were able to play the Brazilian Blur. What Barbosa gives the Suns is hard to match and can get us through a big getting hurt, even though they don't play the same position or game. So, with help from STAT and other bigs, let's look at the Suns cup as being VERY full.

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

  • Kris

    Amare has had a great run, no doubt. Also, his abilities are without question. But how is this any different than the Amare we've always seen? We all know he has the ability to be a max type player, what we haven't seen is him contribute consistently over a long enough period of time to classify him as a consistent rebounder or defender. Forgive me for being a cynic, but the guy is basically on a nightly tryout for that max deal. Of course he has motivation now. To me that's just another red flag to go along with his knees, retinas, and previous lack of enthusiasm on the glass and defense. I think the Suns have to look long term – is Amare a "changed man" or just hustling for that deal? No one can say. I honestly hope they resign him, but I would hate to see them max him out and then see any one of those red flags pop up again. Then the Suns will be screwed for years to come.

  • Larry

    Very solid and well thought out article. Those who are not familiar with a detched retina (eye hanging out of the socket) wonder why it took Amare so long to recover and become a beast as he was in 2005 against Tim Ducan in the playoffs (37 ppg and 10 rpg) Well he had 6 months of only being able to walk slowly. His athletic muscles and wind were gone and he hadn't touched a basketball since last March 1.

    Most thought it would take 20 games for him to be himself. If he could have he would have. A full year of playing as he is now would bring max offers from several teams. But it toook that long as he first had to get in NBA game shape and then back doing things natuarally on the court. Finally he has to feel confortable with his new eyewear and not fear taking a shot to the face or head where he could have permanant vision problems. He had physical and mental problems to deal with. We are now seeing glimpses of that man who lit up Tim Duncan in 1n the 2005 W. Conference Finals and the guy who incredibly blocked Duncan's potential game winner in game four with an amazing rejection.

    The late Cotton Fitzsimmons, in 2002, when Amare was drafted was so excited about this kid and thought the sky was the limit. He couldn't have guessed Amare would have had two near career ending surgeries and still been a 23 ppg and 9 rpg player.

    Sarver could have signed Amare to a 4 year extension for 65 M I believe but his understanding of the situation nor Kerr's, emphasizes the need for real front office experience when evaluating talent as for what it is worth and needs. Now Sarver must foot a near max or max bill or be willing to play before 12,000 fans per contest and lose 50 games next year if Amare leaves. Afteer shopping Amare for two years, there is no cinch that Amare signs a max deal here any way. He may like S. Beach, D. Wade and an owner worth 4.4 Billion a little better.

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