The Heat Is On
Which means Adios Amar’e.
by Clint Corey
With the NBA free agency period for the most coveted class in the history of the League finally upon us what has been lost in the media frenzy of purported player summits and last-minute team maneuvering in order to free up salary cap space is the significance that in all likelihood Amar’e Stoudemire’s tenure in Phoenix is over.
According to a recent report by ESPN, Stoudemire would not be returning to the team for the ‘10-11 season as a result of Steve Kerr’s decision to step back in to the broadcasting booth.
An unnamed source reported to the cable sports network, “(Stoudemire) is done,” emphasizing that even a long-term deal could not convince the five-time All-Star forward to stay with the purple and orange: “He’s gone.”
Although, it also was reported yesterday that last-ditch attempt to reach amenable terms on a contract extension were unsuccessful, however.
Even with the Suns back in the picture and willing to negotiate, which was probably spurned on by the realization Channing Frye would be next year’s starting power forward for the team if “STAT” were to leave, it seems in all likelihood the end of the Stoudemire era in Phoenix, a tumultuous one to be sure, is over.
On the one hand there’s the ‘06-07 Stoudemire who lead his team Western Conference Finals on his way to his only first team All NBA selection in ‘06-07 averaging a career high in rebounds at just under 10 a game.
But this is the same year many fans would say Stoudemire cost the Suns organization their first championship when both he and Boris Diaw came off the bench with 18 seconds to go in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals after Robert Horry had given Steve Nash an unusually hard foul earning suspensions for Game 6 in Phoenix with the Suns leading the series 3-2.
As we all know, San Antonio went on to win Game 6 despite a valiant effort from the Stoudemire-less Suns and the series as well as easily dispatching King James and The Cavs in a sweep in the finals a match-up the Suns would have also won in all probability given the opportunity.
Stoudemire of course also went on to miss the majority of the following season and was often times a distraction to the team as a result of a knee injury which required the dreaded microfracture surgery
Unfortunately, that same polarizing on and off-court persona was present for the Suns once again this season as exemplified by Stoudemire’s brazen and garish request for a max contract from the team despite his knee, two eye injuries, and off the court issues.
On the one hand, there was the towering force Stoudemire who averaged 27.3 points and 9.9 rebounds in the month of March winning the NBA’s Western Conference Player of the Month as the Suns went 12-2 propelling them to the three seed as well as being one of the hottest teams in the League entering the Playoffs.
Then there was the invisible man Stoudemire (save the impressive Game 3 42-point 11-board performance) who averaged an underwhelming 6 rebounds a game often times looking scared and uncaring in the Western Conference Finals against the eventual champion Lakers.
In addition to the uninspired effort there was also the distraction to the team his mother provided when she got pulled over early in the Laker series, with Amar’e in the car mind you, on suspicion of DUI.
This is only the most recent of a multitude of entanglements with the law that Carrie Stoudemire has been involved with including drug possession and violating the terms of her probation in order to get her nails done.
Unfortunately, if Stoudemire leaves the real loser in all of this ultimately is going to be Steve Nash, one of the best teammates in the League, who undoubtedly play out the rest of his career for a Suns team that will clearly be in rebuilding mold.
What’s even more ironic is with Robin Lopez the Suns seem to be developing the center Stoudemire was always craving and complaining about not having as a result of his always having to guard the other team’s five spot.
Not to mention as a result of these gripes the Suns organization blew up an extremely successful nucleus and fired a coach who had won Coach of the Year just a few seasons earlier to bring in Shaq in order to institute a more defensively oriented system who was also supposed to free up Stoudemire more on the offensive end which did not happen.
Confusingly, however, even with all of his unpredictability on and off the court Stoudemire has repeatedly stated his career objectives are championship rings and the hall of fame which is what makes his max salary demands from the Suns even that much more confusing considering their talented young players; point guard heir apparent Robin Dragic and the aforementioned continually developing Robin Lopez.
That being said, if these are truly his goals, Hall of Fame and The Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy, as opposed to just getting a max contract, there are four teams and one option in particular Stoudemire should consider come July 1.
4. New York Knicks
The first and least attractive of the four free agency destinations Stoudemire should consider, but still nonetheless quite attractive is the New York Knicks with or without LeBron.
It is this reporter’s opinion that James will not go to Chicago simply because of the inevitable comparisons with Michael Jordan no matter if he wears Dr. J’s number with the Sixers, Sidney Moncrief’s No. 4 while playing with the Bucks or Kenny Anderson’s No. 12 while playing for Georgia Tech.
No. 23’s legacy is just too much to live up to and no matter what how many championships or titles he won would limit James’ potential as a global product as well as his overall legacy.
James also will not end up in Miami because that’s DWade’s town and team so Wade’s ball when the game is on the line.
So that leaves the option of resigning with the Cavaliers which still is a distinct possibility, the Clippers which I just don’t see happening especially not without David Geffen coming on as a part owner and the Nets which would be just too much of a risk at this point in his career.
In fact other than the Heat the Knicks are the only team with enough money to sign two max free agents although that would not leave much for a supporting cast until next summer when once again they will have enough money freed up to sign another max free agent or several role players to fit around James and Stoudemire if this scenario were to occur.
Hence if LeBron goes to the Knicks and that’s Stoudemire’s destination that sets the foundation for a Jordan and Pippen style combo who although wouldn’t win next year would allow the two to become familiar with each other and New York will have enough money in ‘10-11 allowing for the team to sign more players and be competitive for many years to come.
Now, even if James lands elsewhere this could be a good situation for Stoudemire because reportedly the Knicks have already been in full court press mode on obtaining Joe Johnson and if he ends up in New York Stoudemire would have a player he knows from their days with the Suns together not to mention both being familiar and flourishing in Mike D’Antoni’s run and gun system in Phoenix.
Lastly, although he hasn’t been doing as much lately, earlier in his career Stoudemire was on the covers of video games and used to be one of Nike’s mainstays in commercials prior to the LeBron vs. Kobe takeover and playing in the Big Apple could do wonders for the revitalization of Stoudemire’s endorsement potential.
3. Chicago Bulls
Now unless Chris Bosh decides he wants to be the man on a team that could legitimately have championship aspirations it is my belief he will follow either James wherever he goes or team up with Wade in Miami.
And, as I stated earlier, I really do not see James in a Bulls uniform.
As a result, that will leave the Bulls scrambling and willing to open up their pocketbooks to sign a big name as so not to come away from free agency empty handed.
The major reason Stoudemire would work so well in Chicago is obviously Derrick Rose who likes to get out and run giving Stoudemire the opportunity to showcase his rim shattering spectacles on the break.
Also, there are those around the League who believe Amar’e’s greatness is due in large part to Steve Nash’s court vision and his ability to run the pick and roll with the power forward.
Whether or not this is true is obviously debatable but what isn’t debatable having someone run the point who is adept at the pick and roll increases Amar’e’s value exponentially and Rose has this ability.
Finally, because Derrick Rose is still so young and has yet to reach “superstar” status if Stoudemire has a few big seasons and conducts himself a leader at least for his first few seasons the media could very well anoint the Bulls “Amar’e’s team” which could help his legacy immensely.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
Speaking of Tim Thomas and the Los Angeles Clippers this could also be quite an attractive destination for obvious reasons such as playing under the bright lights of Hollywood in the Staples Center.
Not to mention the Clippers have an excellent nucleus of players already in place including Eric Gordon, Baron Davis and Chris Kaman.
The one big question mark about signing with the Clippers is of course Blake Griffin and his health and if he will come back with the same explosiveness he had prior to the injury.
There’s this and of course also the fact that Donald Sterling still owns the team…
1. Miami Heat
While all these situations would be a good fit for Stoudemire one option and one team stands above all else which would be signing with The Miami Heat for (gasp) less money.
Three million dollars a season or $15 million over the course of five seasons to be exact.
No matter what anyone says Dwyane Wade is staying with the Heat without LeBron James with a maximum contract after all it’s DWade’s town and he’s earned it.
Unfortunately, for Stoudemire Heat General Manager Pat Riley prefers Chris Bosh for a max contract probably deservedly so to Stoudemire for Bosh’s rebounding and defense.
In fact, it was recently erroneously reported by the Miami Herald’s Dan LeBatard that Bosh going to the Heat in a sign and trade deal that included Michael Beasley was “done” which would have made considerable sense especially considering Bosh and Wade share the same agent.
The good news for Stoudemire is that it has also been widely reported that Heat General Manager Pat Riley is going to try to talk to some free agents marquee and otherwise about taking less money toassemble some other components in order to become perennial champions like Riley’s Showtime Lakers did in the 80s.
Now signing for less money with The Heat would be advantageous to Stoudemire for a number of reasons.
First of all, Stoudemire being humble saying this is DWade’s team and all that he wants to do is win would do much for his image around the country and for his endorsement potential.
He only needs to look to teammate Grant Hill and the reaction he received from Suns fans when he signed in Phoenix for less money when he could have got more money elsewhere as an example.
Additionally, he once again would work great in the pick and roll with DWade, his bread and butter, as well as is good enough player on his own that he would have plenty of big games still receiving plenty of national recognition especially if the Heat are the class of the East.
In fact, Stoudemire should sit down with Pau Gasol and ask whether he would prefer still being the man in Memphis with a max contract or if his two championships with the Lakers are more fulfilling?
Additionally, imagine the crossover marketing possibilities.
Both have deals with Nike who I’m sure would gladly make up Amar’e’s $3 million a year deficiency and then some to have the two marquee and most marketable players on a multi championship team in a national sneaker campaign together.
Furthermore, with the extra $3 million in cap space depending on variable such as if the Heat sign Udonis Haslem for the mid-level exception or if they decide to trade Michael Beasley, that extra money would give them enough cap space to at the very least to sign a solid point guard say Like Ridnour or Shaun Livingston and bring in a reliable big man.
Shaun Livingston? Shaun would work well with the Heat and Stoudemire for a couple of reasons.
For one, he already has had a brief stint in Miami so is familiar with Pat Riley and the organization.
But more importantly, according to Synergy Sports Technology, this last season with the Wizards when Livingston ran a pick-and-roll play, whether the end result is offense for him or someone else, the Wizards scored 57.3 percent of the time and netted 1.167 points-per-possession, which ranked in the 96th percentile of the NBA.
Brendan Haywood and Marcus Camby are also free agent possibilities in the frontcourt and although Haywood may get more money than he’s worth somewhere else just because of his size Camby has at least two more good years of solid basketball in him and may be willing to sign with a team at a reduced rate if it means he’ll play for a winner finally.
No matter where Stoudemire ends up he needs to remember that winning and image are the two absolute high watermarks for success in the NBA with both Madison Avenue and the media two outlets he will definitely need if he truly wants to make the Hall of fame and be considered somewhere in the same class as an all time great power forward such as a Tim Duncan or Kevin Garnett.
Simply put, if when signing this upcoming and throughout the rest of his career he doesn’t remember this simple truth it’s going to make for a bumpy ride no matter how successful he is on the court and he can just look to fellow and formerly disgraced Nike athletes Kobe Bryant and Tiger Woods as proof of that.