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Eric Freeman

Amar'e Stoudemire returns to Phoenix with conflicting emotions

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When you spend much of your life in the same place, returning to that spot brings up a host memories, both good and bad. Too many life experiences are tied to that place for it to be another random city or town.

At Friday night's Knicks/Suns game, Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) will play in the arena he called home for eight seasons before heading to New York on a max-level deal last summer. Not surprisingly, some conflicting emotions are bubbling up. From Paul Coro for The Arizona Republic:

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."

Stoudemire obviously doesn't look back on his departure from Phoenix in the sunniest way possible, but his issues shouldn't be dismissed as the words of a man scorned by the team that nurtured him into this league. Money usually acts as a stand-in for love in the NBA, and a wide gap in guaranteed cash is often to make a player think the franchise never really cared about him.

On the other hand, it's not as if Amar'e only thinks of his time in Phoenix poorly. After touching down at the airport, he said "hello" to everyone on Twitter and continues to appreciate Suns fans. He only has an issue with management.

So don't be surprised if Stoudemire gets a huge cheer Friday night and feels the love of his last home. He doesn't look back on his tenure with the Suns as a waste. He just dislikes how it had to end.

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