Goodbye, Amare Stoudemire


Amare Stoudemire had another huge night as the Suns took a crucial game from the Spurs at home. (AP Photo/Matt York)

The Amare Stoudemire era in Phoenix should be remembered fondly. (AP Photo/Matt York)

I remember the day Amare Stoudemire was drafted.

I was at a sleep-away camp the summer entering my junior year in high school and I snuck away to the computer area to see what the Suns did in the draft. I was happy to see them pick Casey Jacobson with their second first-rounder, a player I rooted for when he was at Stanford, but I was most intrigued about the raw high school big man with supreme athleticism they selected ninth overall: Amare Stoudemire.

Amare Stoudemire was a mystery at the time, a guy with a shaky high school background, an undeveloped game and all the talent in the world.

As a rookie Amare dunked on everybody and scored enough with his athleticism alone to be named Rookie of the Year, but he was purely an athleticism guy. Unlike so many failed NBA players who are only about athleticism, Amare has always gotten better.

First he worked on his handles. In the early going he was a travel or charge waiting to happen, and while that still occurs during Amare forays into the paint he’s also now one of the most devastating big men in the league at taking slower defenders off the dribble to the rim.

Next he added a jump shot, becoming one of the better mid-range jump shooters in the league running the pick and roll with Steve Nash.

Throughout the years Amare has evolved from a straight athleticism guy to a combination power/skill guy, a player whose flushes aren’t always as ferocious (OK, I said not always), but a guy who can beat you in a number of ways.

When Steve Nash signed with the Suns two years into Amare’s career the Suns had their dream pairing, a modern day Stockton/Malone only with more power. They were perfect complements, as Nash was better with a rim-rattling finisher by his side and Stoudemire was immeasurably better with MVSteve setting him up.

Although Barkley and KJ weren’t bad either, Nash and Amare will go down as the greatest Suns duo for their six-year run together due to the Suns’ success in this time and how seamlessly they complemented each other.

Phoenix Suns fans have seen the best and the worst of Amare. They’ve seen the 50-point game against Portland, the 49-point dominance against Indiana, the playoff series when he averaged 37 against Tim Duncan and the Spurs as well as the season-long greatness that has led to five All-Star appearances.

But Suns fans have also seen him at his worst. Although he tried a bit more than usual this season, he’s still a minus defender, a guy who doesn’t figure to ever get much better because he just has poor basketball instincts. His rebounding has always left much to be desired (how does a 6-foot-10 force of nature like Amare never average double-digit boards?) and he never was quite able to get the Suns over the hump in the postseason.

The Suns will miss Amare’s ability to suck in the defense, the way defenses often had to play 2-on-3 to defend the Nash/Amare pick and roll, which left countless shooters open from deep.

But they won’t miss his propensity to say stupid things at the wrong time or how he always wanted to be “The Man” even though everybody knew he was best playing the superstar sidekick to Steve Nash. His bickering with Shawn Marion about top dog status will also leave no happy memories.

Amare has seemed to mature, particularly this season when he kind of embraced the leadership role and often dropped major bills at team dinners, becoming a true part of the team off the court for the first time.

Amare AKA STAT AKA Sun Tzu will be missed in Phoenix, but him leaving is not the catastrophe it would be in Cleveland if LeBron James leaves. Suns fans generally fall into one of two camps: Either they’re glad the Suns let him walk because they don’t feel he’s worth a max contract or they feel he should have been given a max deal just to keep the Nash/Amare run together, not because they felt he would be worth such a deal at the end of the contract.

Many Suns fans who are disappointed with the Suns’ offseason are unhappy more so because they’ve thus far only pegged Hakim Warrick as Amare’s replacement.

Today feels like a day that’s been a long time coming. We’ve heard whispers about Amare being traded since the summer of 2007 when Kevin Garnett was potentially available in a trade, but through a microfracture weeks after signing his last monster extension with the Suns and a career-threatening eye surgery the Suns have always stood with STAT.

They have dangled him around the 2009 trade deadline, the 2009 offseason and the 2010 trade deadline but never got the right offer, ultimately deciding to hang onto Stoudemire and play out this hand.

Suns fans have been bracing for this day for years now, and it’s finally here. Yes, it will certainly be strange to see STAT wearing a different shade of orange playing a similar brand of basketball with the Suns’ former coach.

In the interim all they can hope for is that Stoudemire could be a means of upgrading the roster, potentially through a sign-and-trade involving David Lee or maybe even in a deal for cap space.

Whereas LeBron leaving the Cavs would be a messy parting, this should be an amicable divorce. Irreconcilable differences involving guaranteed money in STAT’s contract made this a marriage that had to end, particularly after the parties were so close to breaking it off so many times before.

Both sides should also look back warmly on the good days when Amare was posterizing hapless big men and leading the Suns far into the playoffs but just not far enough.

For the Suns he wasn’t the right player to build around having been unable to lead the franchise to the promised land even with the help of Steve Nash, especially considering all the risk at the back end of his deal.

For Stoudemire the Suns weren’t the right fit when a more attractive proposition arose, the grandest city in the world offering him the contract and bright lights he so yearned for.

Amare Stoudemire has come a long way since the Suns took a chance on that raw high school big man with as many red flags as talent. He’s become Amare Stoudemire, a name almost as synonymous with “Phoenix Suns” as Steve Nash.

This parting makes sense for both sides and has been foreshadowed for years, but you’ve got to wonder if both sides won’t realize how good they had it.

Tags: Amar'e Stoudemire

  • ILoveTaint

    If we could get Lee that would be great. Knicks would most certainly do it. Amare would love another guaranteed year and the Knicks would never go back on signing Amare after striking out with all the other top tier free agents.

  • Freddy

    Glad to see Amare go.

  • sunofkerr

    I added Hakim Warrick to my NBA lIve Phoenix team last night and we were lighting it up! Hakim and J-Rich will be a super athletic tandem getting passes from the best point guard of evertime. If David Lee signs then I think the Suns would be BETTER than last year.

  • Bemmons McDemmons

    Amare will be 39% less effective without The Nashty One. It's science.

  • Mel.

    Agreed, Al. It's important to note that STAT's contract status hasn't resulted in any major discussions–among pundits and fans, at least–about how much Lee is worth now that he's the "go-to choice" at PF.

    If there's no sign and trade, he could ostensibly take advantage of a balloon contract from Miami, Chicago or Cleveland, now that STAT's no longer going to be a piece for those teams and their long-term plans. But until then, the "take" seems to be that he's an expendable aspect of Amar'e coming to NY; something that could be HUGE for the Suns' efforts to make a swap happen.

  • Hayden

    I think there's probably no substance that rumour Al, but I just want to say David Lee would be a way better Sun than Al Jefferson. Lee is a quick, passnig pick and roll player, Al dominates in the post but is basically a black hole for the ball. Signing him would be the Shaq Era: Part 2.

  • ILoveTaint

    Hey Michael Schwartz did you lose your virginity at the summer camp? I remember hooking with mad sluts while playing spin the bottle in the cabin then grinding on them at the dance. I was so horny after that all I could think about was pussy. I had a boner in the woods while playing paintball at the camp just thinking about the previous night's festivities.

  • Bob

    Here is my production right now. STAT WILL lead the Knicks to the Finals and then be beaten by the Suns in six. My basis? Look at what happened to Barkley. Traded to the Rockets, got to the WCF and beaten by the team with the best point guard at that time.

  • http://espn.com victor

    suns better get david lee

  • Mel.

    Bob, I think that could happen… in my copy of NBA Elite 11.

  • Al

    I am hearing rumors that Sarver may want to take the Trade exception instead of taking David Lee in a sign and trade with Stat. I also think LB seriously should be shipped to NY along with STAT for Wilson Chandler and trade exceptions or Lee. I heard that Sarver would rather use the trade exception to acquire Al Jefferson from the Timberwolves. Al is younger than Lee but has had some injuries and I haven’t seen him play that much so I don’t know how he would fit in the Suns up tempos style of play. Lee and Al are efficient at rebounding and are decent at defense, but Al is younger and is 1 inch taller than Lee. I, however, think suns should still aim at convincing Lee to join the Suns in the Sign and trade. Al Jefferson should be the back up option if Suns can’t come to an agreement with Lee. The question about Lee is how much he’s worth? I think that his price shouldn’t go over $68 million.

  • A.J

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?page=FreeAgency-100706

    Wow. Many analysts have David Lee going to either Nets, Miami, or Chicago. I hope Sarver try’s everything he can to convince him to come to Phoenix even though Lee is being sought by many and could be offered a max contract by another desperate franchise.

  • Keir

    So long Amare and thanks for the highlights.

  • Mel.

    A.J, I think that piece was authored before the recent Arizona Republic article; none of the pundits even mention the possibility of the Suns being the front-runner for a sign and trade by virtue of STAT’s potential earning power.

    Without knowing squat about the “inside track,” it seems to me that Amar’e has the veto vote for this thing. If he says he wants the sign and trade, the Knicks are doing business with Phoenix; if he doesn’t, we’re effectively closed out of the Lee running.

    So, let’s see what the next 48 hours is really worth.

  • Bob

    Well the smart move for the Knicks is to try to move Lee to the West. With seemingly ever free agent headed East it’s very probable they’ll have a tight race next year. If there’s a possibility of sending the talent to the west to have an easier time in their conference the Knicks should at least entertain it.

  • AmareFan2

    Chat live, check it out!

    http://www.nba.com/knicks/chat/amarechat_100708.h

    It's going crazy, people are asking him out and everything.

    Shame he's gone…

  • the 1st last n only

    Amar’e is a franchise player and we didnt treat him like it so now he’s gone. I am happy for him because phx is a F***** mess. Sorry Nash, looks like your just gonna have to keep hanging in there. dont get me wrong – im phx suns fan for life and amar’e in nyc is devastating but once we lost D’Antoni and Marion it was all down hill. reallly quick. thank you Amar’e! PHX lovcs you

  • AmareFan2

    Here’s a photo gallery of some of Amare’s best moments with the Suns.

    http://www.msg.com/2.163/2.1609/january-2006-1.46146
    :(

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