The “Welcome, Amare Stoudemire” banner, complete with a picture of the big man in a Knicks uniform, said it all Monday. It’s finally official.
Stoudemire and the New York Knicks agreed in principle to a five-year, $100 million contract, according to an ESPN.com report, making Stoudemire the first major free agent to switch teams.
“No one wanted to make the first move and I feel confident enough to take that first step and hopefully now we can bring a few guys in to join me,” Stoudemire told ESPN.com.
The Knicks have been the front runner to sign the five-time NBA All-Star since talks with Phoenix, where Stoudemire played all eight seasons of his career, broke down Friday.
Stoudemire rejected the Suns’ five-year, $96.6 million offer because only three years were guaranteed due to concerns over his injury history.
The simple fact that the Knicks had a banner ready to welcome Stoudemire should signal that this deal has been pretty much done since Saturday when the team first hosted Stoudemire. Stoudemire seemed to tip his hand as well Saturday night by recruiting Tony Parker and Carmelo Anthony, who will be free agents next summer (like we really need another free agent frenzy).
The cross-country move reunites Stoudemire with former Suns coach Mike D’Antoni, under whom the forward blossomed into a bona fide NBA superstar, averaging more than 20 points each season with the coach. Prior to the announcement of Stoudemire’s signing, the two sat down for breakfast to clear any bad blood.
D’Antoni now gets a legitimate scorer to anchor his up-tempo offense, but the Knicks are surely still trying to add LeBron James or Dwyane Wade with the hope that Stoudemire will be an enticing factor.
Stoudemire, though, clearly believes that he has what it takes to vault the Knicks back to prominence. When meeting reporters outside Madison Square Garden Monday in a blue Knicks hat, Stoudemire boldy declared that ”the Knicks are back.”
In New York, Stoudemire now has the grand stage he has clearly desired his whole career. From Yankees games to Broadway shows and constant media attention (and scrutiny…), Stoudemire will live a life much different than he had in Phoenix. One more fitting of his brash personality and love of the spotlight.
On top of all that, he can go back to not worrying at all about defense (as opposed to the minimal thoughts he seemed to give it after D’Antoni left).
“Totally comfortable, totally confident that my leadership qualities will uplift all of us to do something great this upcoming season,” Stoudemire told ESPN. “So again, the Knicks are back.”
While STAT’s arrival in the Big Apple may or may not lead to big things, it certainly signals the end of an era in Phoenix. After eight seasons, countless trade rumors and, most recently, a surprise run to the Western Conference Finals, the Suns’ go-to guy is moving on. Stoudemire thanked everyone from his Phoenix stint via Twitter Monday night:
“I want to say thanks to all my SUNS Fans. Thanks to my PHX SUNS teammates, an [sic]the Coaches. I love you guys, sorry It didn’t work out. Gone!”
Though the Suns seemed to have replaced Stoudemire with free agent Hakim Warrick, the team’s offense loses a 30- or 40-point threat and could struggle to replace his scoring. But more than a dominant scorer, the Valley loses a fan favorite at a time when the Suns are financially unable to obtain an equivalent.
Mike Schmitz contributed to this report.