There is no question the Phoenix Suns botched the Summer of 2010 after Amare Stoudemire decided to take his talents to the Big Apple.
However, it is looking more and more like Phoenix made the right call offering only three guaranteed years whereas New York was willing to give him the full five on a max contract.
Stoudemire, of course, has a bulging disk in his back that will keep him out for at least 2-for-4 weeks, but as Suns fans know from Robin Lopez, back injuries can be tricky and some have speculated that Stoudemire’s career could be in jeopardy — or at least his career as a maximum dollar player.
The Suns’ medical staff is as good as any in the league and they had spent enough time with Amare to have a pretty good feel for where his body was at. It surely seems like a telling sign to me that they did not find it prudent to give Stoudemire more than three guaranteed years coming off his age 27 season while a pair of players a decade older have continued to thrive in the desert.
Even before this back injury Stoudemire did not exactly resemble the beast he was with Phoenix this season in averaging just 17.6 points and 8.0 rebounds per game and looking considerably less bouncy than he did as a Sun. This apparent erosion of athleticism on its own helps make a strong case that the Suns got this one right.
Arizona Sports’ Adam Green makes the counter argument by noting that by not re-signing Amare, the Suns “did not do everything they could to bring the Larry O’Brien Trophy to the desert.”
With Stoudemire they could have returned the majority of the core of a team that was two wins away from the Finals; without him they were a fringe lottery team, which they appear to be this season as well as they sit on the playoff bubble even after this monster post-ASB run.
However, in the days before the amnesty clause was added to our vocabulary (side note: how do you think the Knicks feel about using their amnesty on Chauncey Billups right about now?), it just did not make sense to potentially mortgage the next half decade for a slim chance at a title.
Plus, would the Suns have been a legitimate contender with 25 and eight Amare last season instead of Turkoglu (and thus Gortat), Childress and Warrick? That is a playoff team for certain but not a squad on the precipice of a championship.
With that being the case, to me all along the question the Suns needed to ask themselves is if Amare was the guy they felt comfortable featuring as their star for the next half decade. Is this the guy that can lead you to a championship? If the answer is yes, you open the vault; otherwise, it just did not make sense to beat New York’s offer.
Clearly we know how Phoenix answered that question, and that is why I felt it was the right move at the time.
It was a very risky call for the Suns because losing Amare dropped them a few rungs in the West, and they have yet to replace his superstar presence.
Yet possessing cap space and the opportunity that provides is a much better situation to be in than having an injured former star clogging your cap, as nothing kills an NBA team’s chances of competing faster than paying max dollars to a player not providing max production, and that’s even more true under the new CBA. By their actions the Suns did not feel STAT was the right star to snatch the torch from Nash as the Suns’ best player, and based on this season they appear to be right.
Now if only they could find a new stud to build around this summer or next with all the money that is not tied up in an Amare deal they will really come out looking good in the aftermath of the disappointing Summer of 2010.
Why Nash threw down the gauntlet on Thursday?
It is not altogether surprising that Steve Nash will only return to the Suns next season if they improve their roster, but after a season of repeating time after time that he was only focused on the task at hand, it seemed a bit strange for Nash to make that proclamation on Thursday.
Although Lon Babby denies it, the New York Post’s Peter Vecsey may have the answer as to why Nash spoke up now.
Vecsey talked to an unnamed source close to Nash who said Two Time “was pushed over the edge by management’s alleged apathetic pursuit of free agent Boris Diaw.”
Vecsey went on to write that Nash really wanted to team up with Diaw and “vigorously” recruited him.
A Vecsey source familiar with the Suns, however, “asserted Lon Babby was against revisiting the past.”
Babby emailed Vecsey to say the Suns wanted Diaw but were told he wanted to play for the Spurs, while the Vecsey source said, “He did not want to be where he was unwanted (by the front office).”
I do not personally know how the front office felt about Diaw, but I was certainly caught off guard by Nash’s comments leading ESPN.com on Thursday afternoon.
Nash kept such a low profile while deflecting question after question about his future throughout trade season and the All-Star break, continuing to say his entire energy was focused on the season, that I am very surprised he would open up this can of worms with a month left in the season and with the Suns in the midst of a playoff push.
It may have been simply a case of Nash innocently answering a direct question posed to him by Dan Patrick, but the timing of this proclamation does seem strange.
Aaron Brooks’ season over in China, what now?
With the Phoenix Suns preparing for their final month of NBA action, Aaron Brooks’ season in China has finally ended.
Brooks’ Guangdong squad lost to former Suns guard Stephon Marbury’s Beijing team 4-1 in the championship round of the CBA after sweeping Fujian and Xinjiang 3-0 in each of the first two rounds. Marbury poured in 41 in the deciding game while AB went for 33-4-5. For the season Brooks averaged 22.3 points and 4.8 assists per game.
Now it is appropriate to ask, “What happens next with the Suns and Brooks?”
Suns GM Lance Blanks traveled to China this past week to visit with Brooks and had this to say to Suns.com before his departure.
“It’s never been a question of talent with Aaron at the NBA level. The trip is more about a relationship that we have with someone who has worn a Suns’ uniform. Aaron is a part of the Suns family, so we thought it was important to take the time to see him in China.”
In a blog post written by Blanks at the end of his trip, the GM says that Brooks is eager to return to America to “begin his off season training to prepare himself for a return to NBA,” which would seem to indicate a return to Phoenix this season is not in the cards.
With Sebastian Telfair and Ronnie Price around, it hardly makes sense to sign Brooks for the final 15 games this season from the “win now” perspective anyway. Although Brooks is a better player then Phoenix’s current backups, I’m not sure how much of an upgrade he would be considering Telfair has been playing with that second unit all season and Brooks would likely need some adjustment time.
If the Suns do not sign Brooks this season (they are the only team eligible to do so), they will still hold his restricted rights next summer but they will not be able to sign-and-trade him due to a new rule in the CBA. That means next summer they could either sign him to a long-term extension, sign him to the one-year qualifying offer or be at risk of him signing an offer sheet with another team that they don’t want to match.
If the Suns sign Brooks for just the rest of this season he would become an unrestricted free agent next offseason. So far as I know, they could sign-and-trade him in that circumstance, but they would obviously be at risk of losing him for nothing as well.
Hill featured on “Oprah’s Master Class”
Phoenix Suns forward Grant Hill will be the topic of conversation on an “Oprah’s Master Class” episode to be aired tomorrow at 10 p.m. MST on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
Hill will share his story on overcoming injuries that threatened his life as well as his career.
“For so long I was ashamed of my injury,” Hill says in the episode, according to a Suns release. “But I slowly started to realize: you’re proud of your scars, you’re proud of your wounds, you’re proud of your battles.”
Hill was riddled with injuries throughout his seven years with the Orlando Magic, the most serious being an ankle injury that took many seasons to fully recover from. After one such surgery on his ankle he contracted the superbug MRSA.
Hill underwent knee surgery on Friday that will keep him out of action for a few weeks, but he has stayed relatively healthy with the Suns.