The Amar’e Stoudemire Agenda 2010
The Adventures of Black Jesus: Number One – Greatest Hits
For the past two years, Amar’e Stoudemire has perplexed me and the Phoenix Suns have perplexed me. Amar’e is one of the most gifted athletes in sports, he’s virtually a perennial All-Star and he plays for one of the best franchises in the NBA. Sans the ignorance and short-sighted frugality of Robert Sarver, the team’s owner, the Suns have done a great job, particularly in the past 20 years, of managing a winning ball team…but neither player nor team have been able to keep a good bond with each other.
One problem with the Suns that’s really become an issue is that aforementioned frugality of Sarver. He’s responsible for Rajon Rondo going to Boston, Kurt Thomas leaving when the Suns needed a big man, and he’s also doubly responsible for Nate Robinson and Sergio Rodriguez going to New York and Portland. The team could’ve been rebuilt fully through the draft alone, and for all their failures to advance deep in the playoffs in 2008 and 2009, these moves have kept them from reaching their full potential–but the Suns have now come correct.
The Suns have seen that Standing Tall And Talented is somewhat of a pest. He was partially responsible for the alleged power struggle that lay between him and Shawn Marion and the eventual breakup of that union (although to Amar’e's credit, Marion went on record in a book that quoted him as vacillating between wanting to win as a complimentary piece on a championship team versus being a star on a fringe team–Marion got the latter and was a sore loser in both Miami and Toronto). He declared that Shaquille O’Neal (the man whom was traded for “The Matrix”) was going to be the man he needed to set the NBA by storm again, by returning to his natural power forward spot; then word was that Amar’e’ started to grow contempt for The Big Shaqtus after he realized that No. 32/33/34 had a certain gravity and space on the court that STAT was not accustomed to (and that Shaq’s personality was taking attention away from the forward). In short, No. 1 feels like he needs to be Numero Uno at all times, when in fact, Steve Nash is the team’s most valuable player. STAT’s a Phoenician prima donna.
For the past two weeks, Charles Barkley has not only entertained me, but he’s enlightened me. Sir Charles got on TNT during the various halftime show segments and “Inside The NBA” and publicly wondered why Amar’e is so valued by the Suns if he’s not the cornerstone player–eureka! Indeed, why have the Suns hung onto the young man, a guy who possesses so many gifts yet seemingly refuses to take that next step? Then Charles, Kenny Smith and Chris Webber made the NBA joke of the year about No. 1–”What do you call a power forward who doesn’t rebound?…A small forward!” Laughing ensued and the joke was on Amar’e–and it’s true, and the joke came on a night where Stoudemire had only one whole rebound. For a supposedly elite player, he’s only an above-average rebounder and his defense sucks. A trusted family member and NBA historian told me once that there’s really nothing wrong with a scoring power forward who doesn’t rebound a whole bunch and he was right–as long as that unique production for the power forward position isn’t a negative for the team’s performance, it can make sense. It’s like a point guard who doesn’t get a whole bunch of assists, and Tony Parker is an elite example of this, because of the San Antonio Spurs overall team philosophy and Parker’s particular gifts; my cousin’s example was Maurice Taylor, the former Michigan Wolverine and Los Angeles Clipper who was the 14th overall selection in the 1998 NBA Draft. Taylor was another highly athletic four-man who was what Barkley considers a “small” forward; he had lots of ability and a ton of talent, but never maximized his potential and his defense was the main reason. Amar’e looks a lot like a rich man’s Mo Taylor to me.
Then, I read a Blazersedge article that basically broke down why the Trail Blazers shouldn’t even try to come to an agreement to acquire STAT, and it sealed the deal for me. Amar’e is gonna play hooky as long as he can with the Suns. As much as like him and as much as I’ve rooted for him, going back to him playing at Cypress Creek High in Florida as a 5th year senior, he’s a liability for the Suns. Phoenix is going to lose with him. Not only does No. 1 not rebound great, he doesn’t seem interested at all in stepping up his D. I guarantee that if Amar’e had been defending the basket back when the Suns were on pace to win a championship in 2006 and 2007, they would’ve had an even better chance, but defense requires willpower. Even Larry Bird wasn’t a great man-to-man defender, but he was a great team defender, and that’s all Amar’e has to be, but he doesn’t even want to be that–and he’s expecting a max-contract extension.
Phoenix, do you really want to keep him around? We know he has the ability to blossom further, but if he does, it’s probably not going to be there in Arizona. He has the Keith Hernandez Syndrome, as in, “I can do whatever I want! I won the pennant for the New York Mets! I’m Keith Hernandez!”, which is excellent if you actually win something; it’s terrible if you have not. Do the right thing and trade Mr. Stoudemire. He can move on, and you can get someone valuable who really wants to win big, because for all of his gifts, STAT will only be No. 1 for Team Amar’e. For a guy who’s also been nicknamed “Black Jesus” (it’s actually tatted on his neck), he seems to care less about the world around him and only about himself.
Sandy Dover is a novelist/writer, artist and fitness enthusiast, as well as an unrepentant Prince fan (for real). You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline, as well as at Associated Content and Twitter.