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NBA: For Amar’e, Suns Tenure Could Go Either Way

January 18, 2010

The agent for Amar’e Stoudemire, Happy Walters, will meet with Suns management soon to begin discussing a potential extension for the high-octane forward, reports Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. The assumption from both outside and apparently inside is that the Suns and Stoudemire don’t have the same dollar figure in mind, and that could lead to the Suns thinking trade before the league’s February trade deadline.

Coro suggests Amar’e is looking for Pau Gasol, near max contract money. (Gasol recently signed an extension worth $57 million for three years during the Laker’s 30s.) The Suns have been so hot-and-cold on Amar’e that it’s almost assured that pricetag is too high. The gamble at that point is in betting that a free agent market focused on the ultra-stars this summer will leave Amar’e in a pickle, and will leave Phoenix open to bidding closer to their price come July. The flip side of that bet is that the team could lose its No. 2 player and No. 2 asset for nothing.

And while Coro comes off as pessimistic as to whether the trade offers which will come in February will be enough to entice Phoenix, I have no doubt they can only improve. By all accounts, Stoudemire’s defense is still problematic. But his rebounding has improved dramatically over last season’s rough campaign (he’s back to his career standard) and his scoring is still ultra-efficient. He’s a real catch, with less of the mitigating issues which sunk his value last season.

Pending Chris Bosh movement, Amar’e could also be the best chance for a non-2010 bonanza team to slip in and make a massive upgrade. Phoenix will obviously want talent in order to give up such a solid asset, but expiring contracts could also help the Suns become a minor player in this summer’s free agency. The Suns are on pace to have a payroll of $45 million if you don’t count Stoudemire’s certain-to-be-declined player option. The salary cap for 2010-11 is expected to fall somewhere around $55 million.

The question will be (should it come to this) just how much talent Phoenix wants to get back. I suppose that goes without saying, but after last year’s odd flirtation with trading Amar’e, it deserves to be mentioned.

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