Ruminations, etc..

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That’s Amar’e!

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Okay, to be blunt, the Phoenix Suns appear to be in free-fall.  Steve Kerr, the GM and his number two, David Griffin, are both leaving at the end of the month.  Right before free-agency begins.  Which, coincidentally, is when Amar’e Stoudemire becomes a free agent looking for a max contract. A max contract he probably won’t receive from the Suns.

Steve Nash won't like this post...

Frankly, the Suns are in a bind with regards to Mr. Stoudemire.  For one, there are health concerns.  This guy’s had more than his fair share of injuries and he’s only 28.  Sure, the most recent — and most gruesome — injuries to his eye are unlikely to be chronic, but he has had reconstructive surgeries on his knees. Those can linger. The wisdom of giving such a large contract to someone with a history of his injuries should be explored by someone else with a lot more knowledge of how NBA finances work.  Big ticket contracts in pro sports make my head spin. But injury concerns aside, there’s a pretty big reason why Amar’e won’t get a max-contract: his play doesn’t warrant it.

Okay, obvious stuff out of the way first: yes, when Amar’e is engaged, he is an offensive force who is also a great finisher.  He’s developed a nice mid-range jumper which keeps defenses honest.  When he and Steve Nash are in-sync, their pick-and-roll offense is a wonderful sight to behold.

But that’s not the problem.

No, smart guy, the problem isn’t his defense either. Amar’e will never be a lock-down defender, and it probably doesn’t matter as much, depending on what team he’s on.

It’s his rebounding. For a power forward, his rebounding is sub-par.   He doesn’t fight, doesn’t box out, and therefore, doesn’t come up with the rebound.

Rebounding is all about effort.  It’s about wanting it more than the other guy.  Yeah, players who are tall and have long arms have an advantage, but that can be overcome with desire and athleticism.  Look at Dennis Rodman, Charles Barkley, or Karl Malone.  None of these guys were seven footers, or even as tall as Amar’e, yet they were out on the floor getting rebounds and giving their teams opportunities for second chance points or preventing the other team from a second-chance opportunity.  Hell, take Carlos Boozer as an example.  This guy is a contemporary of Stoudemire’s, and he’s still averaging 11.2 rebounds per game. During the playoffs, Boozer averaged 13.2.  Compare that to Stoudemire’s 8.9 per-game during the regular season and his pathetic 6.6 in the playoffs. Not good.

Now, his offensive contributions can make up for his lack of rebounding.  Obviously the Suns did very well this season without him crashing the boards.  However, he wants a max contract.  He wants Lebron James’s type money.  For that kind of cash, he needs to do everything very, very well.  And it’s fairly obvious that he just doesn’t.  At least not consistently enough to be awarded with that kind of scratch.

In my mind, a max player needs to make his whole team better; he needs to be able to elevate his level of play when it matters most.  In Stoudemire’s case, his play went down when it mattered the most.  That just can’t happen.

But here’s the problem: without him, the Suns are in real trouble.  There’s no one out there that’s 1) available and 2) inexpensive enough for Sarver that can replace Amar’e’s offensive contribution.  Without him, the Suns are lottery bound and fighting the Kings for last place in the West.

So should the Suns offer him a max contract?  As much as it hurts, they probably should, but I doubt they will.  Something is going on with that team that’s not good.  (Kerr’s sudden departure is a troubling indicator.)

However, here’s the kicker: even with Stoudemire, the Suns aren’t good enough to win the Championship. LA is still has Pau Gasol (frankly, a bigger key to their contender status than Kobe).  But without him, they’re awful. And if the team becomes awful, the fanbase will jump ship in a hurry, making the Suns/Sarver’s financial problems even worse. An eventuality that’s extremely unpleasant for Sarver.

So Robert Sarver has the choice: pay Amar’e or blow the team up and rebuild.  For years.

Good luck, Bob…

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Written by B. Michael Krol

June 22, 2010 at 6:41 pm

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