Tonight, we “celebrate” the homecoming of Amar’e Stoudemire at the US Airways Center. The Suns play the Knicks at 8pm. This will be the first time we’ve seen him since he bailed for NY last year. I’m sure there will be mixed emotions from fans. But, one thing’s for sure: HE MUST LOSE!
(Courtesy of Paul Coro – Arizona Republic)
Amar’e Stoudemire sat on the New York Knicks’ charter plane Thursday awaiting takeoff for Phoenix to play his first game against the only NBA team he knew for eight years.
He talked about feeling bad for Suns fans, going unappreciated in Phoenix and surmising how great things could have remained had the Suns offered him the contract New York did. He then ended the call as succinctly as he left town after a run from teenager to All-Star.
“Gone,” he said.
Friday, Stoudemire will come out of the visitors’ tunnel at US Airways Center for the first time. Like he often was with the Suns, he will be the star of the better team. His play revitalized the Knicks (20-14). His absence has decimated the Suns (14-19).
“It’s something I couldn’t have imagined for the simple fact of how we’re winning and how beautiful the city and fans are,” said Stoudemire, the NBA’s second leading scorer to Kevin Durant at 26.4 points per game. “It’s rock-star status here in New York. If we would’ve kept it together in Phoenix, we could’ve had the same success. I’m satisfied. I wouldn’t do anything different.”
Stoudemire’s wish was to stay in Phoenix but left over a chasm in guaranteed money. He took a maximum-level, five-year $99.7 million contract that is fully guaranteed over the Suns’ five-year, $96.6 million offer with about $56 million guaranteed. The remainder of the Suns’ deal would have kicked in if he played a comparably low minute total in his third and fourth years.
The stipulation addressed the Suns’ concerns about Stoudemire’s knees and right eye, all of which have had surgeries.
“If they were looking to rebuild and thought I was the guy they wanted to rebuild with, then we could’ve came to an understanding,” Stoudemire said. “But apparently it wasn’t that way. It felt like I wasn’t wanted. It felt like I wasn’t appreciated. I felt like my play on the court was overlooked.
“If you have the best training staff and brag about the situation, my knees really weren’t much of a concern. It was something that didn’t make him (Managing Partner Robert Sarver) comfortable and he made a decision. I don’t want to get involved in an amount-of-minutes situation because it becomes a control issue. You want to be able to play free.”
Suns coach Alvin Gentry said Stoudemire was concerned that the Suns were going to remain mostly Steve Nash’s team. Home fans chanted “M-V-P” for both players.
“I think he felt like he would like to have a team that was his, that he was the focal point, that it would be basically his team,” Gentry said.
Nash said he “foolishly” thought the Suns would re-sign Stoudemire, 28.
“We lost an All-Star power forward and we didn’t replace him,” Nash said. “We have no real kind of power forward.”
Stoudemire said it is hard for him to see Suns fans endure their worst team in seven years.
“We were in the conference finals and had a chance to do something special this season but all of a sudden it went in the opposite direction,” Stoudemire said. “It’s tough to see because the fans deserve more. They’ve been loyal. We’ve been on top so long that they deserve a championship team. But decisions were made and they’re going in another direction.
“Last year, the Knicks wanted to be in the Suns’ shoes. This year, we’re, we’re . . . yeah.”