NBA: Stoudemire staying with Suns
PHOENIX — After weeks of trade discussions, the Phoenix Suns decided the one player they could not do without was Amare Stoudemire.
It is a gamble. All-Star starter Stoudemire can opt out of the final year of his contract worth $17.7 million next season, and the Suns will have nothing but a little extra money to spend next summer.
Still, general manager Steve Kerr said he considered standing pat at Thursday’s NBA trade deadline was the best option for a Suns team that has a three-game lead on a Western Conference playoff spot with 27 games remaining.
“I’ve maintained that unless there was something out there that improved our team and put us in a lot better position moving forward, then we weren’t going to do anything. And that was the case,” Kerr said.
“We contemplated a lot of things today. Nothing jumped out, and we move on. Frankly, all of us are kind of relieved, because we are excited about this team. We listened to a lot of people. Multiple teams called us. We called a couple of teams just to inquire about certain things. In the end, nothing really struck our fancy.”
Cleveland was the team most often linked to the Suns, with J.J. Hickson and Zydrunas Ilgauskas mentioned as trading chips, but Kerr said any trade with the Cavaliers “never really rang a bell with us, frankly.”
“It had to be better. It had to be a spin-off. There had to be something else. That had a lot of different offshoots to it that were tricky, and it just didn’t happen,” Kerr said.
Stoudemire, in his seventh season, is averaging 21.4 points and 8.7 rebounds a game while playing for about $16.4 million. He has until June 30 to decide if he will opt out.
Miami and Philadelphia also were mentioned as possible trading partners, but it became clear that any deal involving the Suns and Miami would have had to include a third team. Stoudemire makes an offseason home in Florida.
“He’s fine with what happened. He always has been with the Suns. He likes the team. He loves the city. He’ll go 110 percent the rest of the year,” said Stoudemire’s agent, Happy Walters.
The Suns are in seventh place in the tightly bunched Western Conference, although seedings can change daily. They are 3› games behind second-place Denver and three games ahead of ninth-place Houston.
Phoenix has won six out of its last eight games, a streak that began when Stoudemire was on the bench for the entire fourth quarter of a 112-106 victory over Dallas on Jan. 28.
At the All-Star festivities, Stoudemire said he wondered why he has been mentioned in trade talks in each of the last two seasons, but Kerr said he did not expect any ill will moving forward.
“It’s not easy to have your name mentioned,” Kerr said. “It’s harder when you are a first-team All-Star, because those guys are not used to having their names thrown around. I don’t foresee any problems relationship-wise, but I’m going to talk to him. I expect him to keep playing his heart out.”
Kerr and Stoudemire’s camp exchanged ideas on a new contract for Stoudemire earlier this season, and Kerr said he hoped to continue that process.
Walters said he is always open to listening.
“I don’t know that we’re going to reach an agreement. I’ve been quoted as saying we’re close, but I never said that,” Walters said. “Amare is an important part of their future — it is up to the Suns to say how much.
“We’ve exchanged ideas. The ball is in their court. It’s going to be what he feels the team is going to do in the future. Are they going to build the team, or stay where they are?”