Amare Stoudemire's New York misery and a look back at the Summer of 2010 with hindsight

Amare Stoudemire went to New York to star on a premier team like LeBron, yet he has been rejected. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Amare Stoudemire went to New York to star on a premier team like LeBron, yet he has been rejected. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

I feel bad for Amare Stoudemire.

Today he was rightly lambasted for being on the wrong end of a fight with a fire extinguisher, as The Wall Stree Journal so colorfully illustrates.

The resulting laceration of his palm likely ends his season two or three games early and puts the Knicks one more player down in a hopeless series against the mighty Heat.

It was a ludicrous reaction, but I feel bad for him because of the reason he presumably picked the fight with the fire extinguisher in the first place: This not only is no longer “his” team but he’s not even 1B on the billing.

Amare always wanted to be “The Man” on a team. That’s why he fled Phoenix for Gothan (although the guaranteed $100 million didn’t exactly hurt either), and for just about four months he was exactly that.

Before Carmelo arrived Amare was the centerpiece of one of the league’s glamour franchise in the media capital of the world. He was literally bringing New York basketball back from a decrepit decade, averaging 26.1 points and 8.6 rebounds along the way during his marvelous 2010-11 first half.

Then the Melo trade went down and STAT has steadily mattered less and less. Along the way a back issue has flared up and he has seemed to lose much of the explosiveness that made him a star in Phoenix.

As Neil Paine points out on today:

“New York was merely an average team (at best) when Stoudemire suited up this season, but without him they’ve played like a plus-7.5 team per 100 possessions. By comparison, the 2012 Heat have only been a plus-6.7 team after adjusting for opponent quality — meaning the Knicks go from being 6.7 pts/100 worse than Miami with Stoudemire in the lineup to 0.9 pts/100 better than Miami without him.”’s Israel Gutierrez did not mince words today in writing that the Knicks should have used their amnesty clause on Amare when they had the chance this summer. Instead they amnestied Chauncey Billups to make room for Tyson Chandler, which now means they are stuck with a Melo-STAT-Chandler core for the next three seasons unless they can find a team crazy enough to swap its own horrid contract for Stoudemire’s.

Gutierrez writes:

“But if you’re going to build around Anthony, you take advantage of who he is. You don’t pair him with a score-first power forward whose athleticism and effort seem to magically leave him when he’s not getting touches offensively.

The Knicks could’ve even built around Stoudemire, kept Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Anthony Randolph and Timofey Mozgov, and even that team would’ve made more sense than this one (and the rumors in New York were that Dolan brokered that deal against the advice of Walsh, and that’s why Walsh left this past offseason).

Instead, the Knicks get a bloody hand and an apologetic tweet from a player who’s supposed to be a stabilizing force.”

This is not what Amare signed up for. He did not leave Phoenix and the comfort of Steve Nash hand feeding him baskets to take 16 shots in a combined 73 minutes in the first two games of a playoff series.

Some of that has to do with the erosion of athleticism that not even the Suns could have predicted would happen this early to the 29-year-old Stoudemire, but also this just isn’t a good fit for him and now both Amare and the Knicks are all but stuck with each other (although STAT should not be too disappointed about collecting $65 million the next three years, including $23.4  mil in 2014-15).

I fully stand by my previous stance that the Suns are fully vindicated for not matching the max deal New York offered, but at the same time they have now spent two years in which Nash, Gentry and the Suns’ brass have lamented not rostering a go-to guy, a player who can get you a clutch bucket in crunch time and the kind of stud who can put up 20 in his sleep.

In other words, Amare Stoudemire, at least before this season hit, and not surprisingly the Suns have failed to make the playoffs either of these two STAT-less years.

It’s fair to say the Suns have been worse off without Amare, and after that brief honeymoon in the Big Apple Amare has been worse off without the Suns.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that the Knicks panicked by offering Amare the max when they struck out with all the other max free agents during the infamous Summer of 2010. They had to have something to show for all the cap space they cleared and the effort they made to do so, and Stoudemire was more than happy to take their money.

But what would have happened if the Knicks signed LeBron and/or Wade? Or if they just decided to wait until 2011 (Carmelo) or 2012 (Dwight/Deron/CP3 at the time) to make their big move? It doesn’t take a basketball genius to figure out that Amare and Melo aren’t a championship fit. Why acquire STAT if they ultimately wanted Melo and why give up so much for Melo once they had Stoudemire?

If the Knicks had passed on Amare, what other team would have offered Stoudemire the max? I can’t think of one, and that must have been what the Suns were counting on with their very reasonable offer that looks brilliant in hindsight.

Since they may or may not have been offered packages headlined by J.J. Hickson and Mario Chalmers at the 2010 deadline for STAT, what kind of team would commit max money and years to the uninsurable power forward?

In that case he almost would have had no choice but to return to Phoenix on Sarver’s terms, and thus Suns fans would never have gotten acquainted with Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress or Hakim Warrick (the real mistakes of that offseason).

Perhaps Stoudemire still would have broken down this year with the warlocks and it would have been a losing proposition anyway, but I would have much preferred that scenario to the actual result.

ESPN Rumors speculated on potential STAT landing spots if the Knicks were to try to jettison him (which I don’t see as being possible unless they get a Gilbert Arenas bad contract back), and of course they mentioned Phoenix. The Suns could package Childress, Warrick and Frye for STAT, which would undo all their mid-level mistakes of 2010 for one much worse contract while costing them over $20 million over the life of the deals.

If the Suns didn’t want those years of Amare at this price two years ago when they could only predict these health issues would sprout up, there’s no chance they want him now. And how does that package put New York any closer to championship contention?

Amare is certainly learning that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side as he must face three more years of watching Melo dominate the ball as he continues the transformation from franchise saver to franchise albatross, but as smart as the Suns look for not matching Amare’s deal they have still yet to find a star to replace him.

Tags: Amar'e Stoudemire

  • Fan in Chi Town

    How can you feel bad for a guy making that much money? I feel bad for people that lose their jobs, not for Amare, who abandoned our team when we were close to making it to the finals.

  • Fan in Chi Town

    I don’t.want to sound inhumane. Obviously I felt bad for him when his brother passed away and for his ongoing personal problems with his mom, but as far as being a fan of this team, I don’t feel bad for a him or his self-imposed injury, especially when he has guaranteed money. I would bet most people not only in America but in the world wouldn’t be getting paid if they weren’t working.

  • HankS

    I quite agree with your assessment that ‘the Suns are fully vindicated for not matching the max deal New York offered’, but I think their brass should be actively gauging the current level of desperation in New York. STAT is next to untradeable these days, which means to get rid him, they’ll have to sweeten the deal considerably. Could the Suns fleece them enough to make the risk of bringing STAT back palatable? Schumpert? Lin? Draft picks?

    Would the draft/FA improvement on the SG and SF positions coupled with STAT return convince Nash this might be an fun team to run, after all?

  • DBreezy

    Typical prisoner of the admittedly bizarre moment stuff. The Knocks lack a consistent pg and will struggle without one which is why at times they’ve looked better with only Melo and only Amar’e. Melo’s rolling now so the tide is with him, but he struggled to fit with more players than Stat has over his career. Stat played well with just as many different players as Nash has over the years while Melo has been a mixed bag and a coach killer. Stat came in out of shape after the back issue and the notoriously slow starting player didn’t have that luxury in a lockout season although he seems to be getting his bounce back in recent weeks. The Knicks need a pg and some consistency on their roster and management before they make any more big moves. Being NY though, I’m sure they will do something rash and media driven though.

  • steve

    Nice article. I always thought Amare was a bit of a tool, even when he was in a Phoenix uniform, but I rooted for him nonetheless. I know he’s had a much more difficult upbringing than I had, so I can’t necessarily understand all the things that got him to where he is. That said, it does bring a little joy to my life knowing he probably wishes he would have taken the near-equivalent offer of the Suns (albeit with the stipulation that he should actually play in order to earn his money). The Suns will eventually rebound from this, whether it’s next season or five seasons down the road.

  •!/True_Rys Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    I feel really bad for him.

    You know, I was happy for him when he went to the Knicks. That squad they had, with him and all those youngsters… They were a point guard away from being lethal.

    D’Antoni did not want ‘Melo especially at the price they paid. Even still, it could have worked if a point guard were found.

    But when they signed Chandler, that was the end of STAT and D’Antoni. I don’t think Amare’s athletic ability is as far gone as many think. He does need certain things to excel on the court.

    He needs lots of space and areas on the court. ‘Melo took half of that and with Chandler down low, the rest is gone.

    It’s like I’ve said before – System plus players.

    I also don’t think his body is failing him really. I think that being away from the Warlocks is starting to really show.

    People talk about Phoenix making a big move to keep Nash in house. In all seriousness, if the Knicks did shop him, Phoenix should take him back. Free agent wise, it’s the best deal they’ll get for the best player they can land while Nash is still playing.

    It’d work too. Gortat / STAT would be sensational for so many reasons.

    in the real world, though, this move would never happen. Amare will probably rot in NY and I do feel bad for him.

  • Lex

    Warrick, Childress, Frye Amare

  • Lex

    *for Amare

  • Scott

    I think this is an overblown story. There’s a tendency for everything in NYC to get magnified beyond its reality.

    If I’m not mistaken, Amare has had good games this year. NYC has just had difficulty stabilizing their game, at least in part because of all the injuries.

    Amare’s injury, happening at this point in the post-season, is unfortunate, and self-inflicted, but it’s not like the Knicks were going to beat the Heat anyway.

    As he said he was going to do, Amare should just go home and heal.

    If the Knicks insist on trading Amare after this, then maybe they can do a deal with Orlando if Howard wants out. Trade Amare and Chandler for Howard and Turkoglu. This way Orlando gets a quality center and some offense, and the Knicks get a star center whose game won’t interfere with Carmelo. (Yes, the Knicks get Turkoglu too, but they don’t mind spending money.)

    However, the Suns should not take Amare back. His new contract is HUGE and it would kill the Suns.

  • Ty-Sun

    D’Antoni wasn’t they guy to make the mix in NY work. Woodson might be able to do it with a full training camp and preseason to work out the kinks. But Woodson will only get the chance if the Knicks can’t lure Phil Jackson out of retirement and I think he would only consider it if he thought that Amare, Carmelo, Tyson and the rest of the team could function within the triangle offense.

    The NY press and fans are being too hard on Amare. He’s not the cause of the problem, the problem is the meddling owner who thinks he knows what is best for the team and doesn’t listen to the people he hired to actually run the team for him.

    I like Amare and think he’s still got gas in the tank for any team that knows how to use his talents. He, Melo and Chandler haven’t really played enough together under one coach to pass judgement on whether they can co-exist on one team yet. But in case the Knicks do try to trade Amare, I’m not at all convinced that the Suns should take back that single, huge FULLY GUARANTEED contract. Yeah, the Warrick/Frye/Childress for Amare trade would work by the salary numbers but that would truly be putting all of Phoenixes eggs in one basket. Amnesty could not be used on Amare if for whatever reason it didn’t work out. Both Childress and Warrick have been mentioned as possible amnesty candidates but they both are also potentially tradable under the right circumstances. If Amare can’t return to something close to his old form, he would truly be untradable and be a salary cap albatross hanging from the team’s neck for years to come. It’s just not worth the risk IMO.

  • grover

    The Suns aren’t vindicate yet. The Suns offered the same money as New York except years 4 and 5 were based on Amare being able to play a certain number of games. Had Amare stayed in Phoenix, next year would be his last guaranteed year (or am I off a year? I think this is year two in New York). If Amare is still playing well in 2013/14 and 2014/15, then we’ll look like morons for not having had the balls to sign a complete stud. If he fizzles out, we’ll have been vindicated. The sad part for Amare, though he should have seen it coming given Dolans track record, is that he’s been placed in a situation where he’s bound to look bad even if his health stays. I’m not convinced Amare is the sharpest tool in the shed, but I always liked the guy and wish him better than what he has right now.

    This hand injury feels like a different animal to me. Stupid, yes, but I bet you couldn’t find many NBA players who haven’t punched a locker, wall, door, etc. after a frustrating loss (I bet the number of Anthony’s teammates that haven’t punched a locker is even smaller). To me this seems like 90% bad luck and 10% stupidity.

  • Tony


    The Suns are vindicated for not matching the Knicks offer????

    So let me see, the Suns FO is vindicated for letting Amare go and yet the past two seasons, the Suns failed to make the playoffs after going all the way to the WCFs with Amare. Let’s be honest, the Suns will most likely not make the playoffs next season as well. So, instead of potentially getting the franchise’s first title the following season after they went to the WCFs, it was smart of them to just let him go? Make no mistake about it, the Lakers were not the same team the next season that they were following their defeat of the Suns in the WCFs. All the Suns needed was one more big, not a great big, but just a solid defensive one to come off the bench. Instead, well, we know the rest.

    Furthermore, the biggest problem with the Knicks is the lack of team chemistry caused by Anthony. Amare was playing great when Felton was running the point, pre-Carmelo, and there’s no reason to believe anything would have been different had Dolan not traded half his team for Melo.

    Lastly, you underestimate the importance of the Suns training staff and the weather in Phoenix. Warmer weather is especially important for players with a proclivity towards injury because of the benefit towards keeping the body looser. In addition, D’Antoni was playing Amare 37+ minutes per game, something I doubt Gentry would have done.

    My point is that as we cannot assume Amare would have been the same player with the Suns at this point than he’s been since the Melo trade while with the Knicks, no credit should be given to Sarver for failing to resign him.

    The ramifications for not resigning Amare have been disasterous for the Suns. First, we had Sarver’s shopping spree of role players immediately following Amare’s departure. Then, to get rid of one ridiculous contract in Hedo, the front office traded our best wing scorer along with Hedo for Gortat, a good player, but certainly not an All-Star caliber player. Lastly, with the all new role player additions signed instead of just simply resigning Amare, the heir-apparent to Nash, Dragic, struggled to play well with players not suited to the Suns system and without any team chemistry, which subsequently led the Stooges to trading him and their extra 1st round pick for Brooks.

    So, just to sum up; as a consequence to letting Amare walk, the Suns not only lost Amare, J-Rich and Dragic were also casualties of this poor decision too. Instead, we have only Gortat to show for it and two players neither of whom play much. So vindication?? Certainly not for the Suns FO.

  • Michael Schwartz

    @Tony The Suns are vindicated for not matching the offer, but not vindicated for what happened afterward. We all know that summer was a disaster that has led to some of the other effects you mentioned.

    As to your point about the training staff, don’t you think it’s telling that likely in consultation with Nelson and the gang the Suns did not find it prudent to guarantee more than three years? The Suns knew Amare’s body better than anyone going into the Summer of 2010 so they knew exactly what they would have been getting into.

    We can play the “What If” game all day, but the bottom line is the Suns were far from a championship team in 2010-11 even if they had kept STAT and not made some of the other dumb moves. Many teams got much better, and with a breaking down Amare they would have been locked into a dim future without much financial flexibility.

  • JZ

    I have a feeling that Phoenix will be in talks with NY for an Amare return to the valley. Doubt NY will want to give up any of it’s guards so they will probably include Novak or Jeffries on the deal. Warrick, Childress, and Frye sound like the obvious picks to be traded.
    I don’t usually like to speculate what ifs, but how good could the suns have been if they had signed David Lee to replace STAT during the 2010 off season?

  • Scott

    @JZ -

    I agree in the sense that I think Phoenix needs another one or two players with a high motor, like David Lee.

    I think the Suns have a lot of players with good temperament, but sometimes that extra edge of hunger or will to win seems to be missing.

    Should they have picked Faried instead of Morris? Morris is bigger and more talented, but Faried has more drive. Hopefully we’ll see Morris more prepared and playing better in his second year. Part of the reason he was picked was for his no-nonsense attitude, and if that’s truly what he has, then I expect him to spend his summer working on his game so he’s ready to show more of what he’s got next season.

    Personally, while I do believe like any rookie he needs to work on his fundamentals, I thought one of his best games was against Denver when both Nash and Hill were out. In that game he had good energy and he showed some creativity in getting to the basket. So in addition to him getting his basic game in shape, I’d like to see him gain the confidence of Gentry and Nash in doing more with the ball and scoring within the offense.

  • bk

    $65 for next 3 years??? No thanks!

  • steve

    I would have liked to have lee as well, but his market value was way over inflated. He’s not worth what he’s making. The suns already have a couple of those types of guys, and I’m glad they didn’t add another.

  • Frustrated Fan

    I’m going back since 04-05 when:

    1. Joe should have been kept
    2. Marion shoud’ve been kept
    3. Raja, Boris, Leandro etc… etc.. should’ve been kept
    4. Colangelos should have stayed as owners.

    There are many shoudas couldas would’ves… but look at this, from 04 – 2012, the Spurs have hung on to their core, win or lose. Look at them now.

    I’ve moved on. I’m with Dallas now where Shawn is. Heck I’m even with the Spurs now where Boris is. The Pacers, Knicks and Utah. (LB, Stat and RBell respectively)

  • Danny Max

    I think Suns fans have lost a lot of self-esteem as a result of the last two years. While I agree with an earlier poster who said quite eloquently that we should have kept our 2009-2010 team together. (which was the most complete, most well-rounded Suns team we have had during the Nash-led era–deep rotation, better defense, hard-nosed role players.) However, we cannot correct 2010′s mistake by bringing Amare back, now. His injuries over the past two seasons (missing both games in both playoffs), coupled with his locker-room antics as of late with a $65 million price tag? No thanks. Simply put, the guy makes too much money. He is a one-dimensional player, with bad knees, bad back, and a bad eye who is losing the athleticism he relied on so heavily several years back. I love the Spurs model, but Amare is no Tim Duncan– he refused to take a pay cut to win a championship and instead opted for a New York team who hadn’t made the playoffs in years and was still several years from real contention. Amare wants to get paid and live like a rock star.

    IF SARVER AND BABBY DO IT (which they might if they can keep Nash): New York would have to give more than just Amare in a deal for Frye, Chilly, and Hakim. They would have to throw in another nice piece in exchange for us taking on his massive contract (Fields, Shumbert, Lin?). New York might say, ‘f*ck it’ and do it if they can dump Amare’s massive contract.

    What are the Suns chances of getting Josh Smith, Batum, or Eric Gordon?

  • steve

    I fail to see how it’s a bad thing that the suns didn’t keep two of the most comically overpaid players in the nba (Johnson and Stoudemire).

  • Scott

    @steve -

    You forgot to add Marion, who was already making Shaq money and left because he felt he deserved more.

    And maybe Boris Diaw, who made a mint on his Suns contract that finally expires this year.

    And who can forget Marbury, who signed a max contract in Phoenix just months before getting shipped out to NYC?

    I think the Suns have been willing to pay for talent under both Colangelo and Sarver, with really no variation in the pattern. And then when the players are being paid more than they’re worth, or making a lot and yet still want more, it’s time to ship them out, because the whole team has to fit under the cap.

  • Danny Max

    Former Suns who played in the uptempo system and had Steve Nash to feed them the ball and pad their stats benefitted enormously not the mention our great medical staff. Look how many players got huge contracts to go play elsewhere or had a major decline in their game once they left Phoenix–Amare, Marion, Diaw, Q all benefited from the system in Phoenix and all look like they lost a step or two once leaving. You’d think Phoenix would be better at trading their “fools gold” in exchange for some top talent.

  • Cdub

    Phoenix was so foolish to let Amare go. Slightly over paying a star is ok when you have the pieces in place to win a championship! Phoenix has been one of the best in the league for years and would have remained so without trading so much. They were like the Colts…as good as the best in the league, it just had not clicked for them yet. Their turn was coming. They started messing it up when they traded Sean Marion. They should never have made any of the trades since then. The chemistry and exciting basketball was amazing. They would have eventually beaten the Lakers and Spurs…much like the OKC is coming around, etc.

    Best thing for the Suns is to bring back Stat, J Rich, and Aaron Brooks…we would get back to best bench in the league and as good as anybody starting 5 (Grant needs to retire).