January 28, 2010
As you've likely heard by now, multiple sources are telling Adrian Wojnarowski that the Spurs are exploring the idea of potentially trading for Phoenix big man Amar'e Stoudemire(notes). The thinking goes that the Spurs are in full-on win-now mode, and though it may cost San Antonio Manu Ginobili(notes) plus rotation parts, the trade off might still be worth it.
For Phoenix, going big-to-small and young-to-old in picking up Manu-for-Amar'e comes down to simple finances. The Suns have been bent on cutting costs since Robert Sarver made his first big splash as Suns owner back in the summer of 2005, costing them a series of young players, and they don't think Amar'e will re-sign in Phoenix after he opts-out of the last year of his contract this summer. They think he's gone, so you might as well try to secure some contributors for his services right now.
That's the logical thinking, for now. We're still not sure about that, but we'll hold off on those thoughts until later in this post.
The immediate reaction, from the comments that dot these pages to the mainstream media bloviators on TV, runs along the line of, "The Spurs wouldn't make that deal. Amar'e Stoudemire isn't what the Spurs are all about."
Well, no. The Spurs are about winning. And though Amar'e doesn't subscribe to the team's usual philosophy of defense-first, and tattoos-last, Gregg Popovich will do anything he can to secure a roster that he thinks will help them win. Even if that means going against type.
And if coach Pop and San Antonio general manager R.C. Buford think Amar'e Stoudemire will help them win, as much as I think I know what's what in this league, I'm inclined to buy their take over mine.
It's Phoenix's intentions, at this early (and hypothetical) point in the game, that I'm concerned about.
The Suns are reeling, in danger of missing the playoffs for the second straight year, and facing all sorts of internal crises. The budget has to be cut. The team's best player, Steve Nash(notes), might be enjoying a career season; but he also about to turn 36 years old. The team's core, at its absolute best (something that, with Nash and Grant Hill(notes) aging), is still far from championship core.
Would trading for Manu Ginobili, George Hill(notes), and Matt Bonner(notes) change that? Likely not. Nash and Manu could ham and egg it like no guard duo we've ever seen before, but they could also fail to mesh properly, working with another guard that needs the ball as much.
I don't quite think that's the point, though.
Manu has an expiring contract. And while it's been accepted that if the Suns pulled the trigger on a deal like this that Manu would be off this summer and that the Suns would enjoy the savings (without adding rookies, the Suns would be at around $46 million in payroll next summer, about six or seven million under the expected cap). But I think we're underestimating the sheer amount of savings that they're thinking about right now.
Perhaps the idea that the Suns won't be able to sign Amar'e after the season is just a ruse. They might very well be fearing a Carlos Boozer(notes)-styled, unexpected opt-in. And as it is with the San Antonio front office, I trust the Suns front office to have best handle on what means most ($$$) to Amar'e.
Perhaps the Suns know the lay of the land better than anyone at this point, understanding both Stoudemire better than any team and what this summer's offseason will look like better than Stoudemire does, and they're thinking of trading Amar'e because they know that Stoudemire will actually opt-in next year.
That he'll be on the books for close to $18 million. And while a potent scoring big like Stoudemire is usually worth his weight in gold, I have a good feeling that the Suns are less scared about the typical "we'd lose him for nothing anyway" shrug of shoulders, and more fearful that Amar'e would be opting into almost $18 million that they for years hadn't planned on paying him.
It's been assumed for years, since he returned with a force in 2006-07, that Stoudemire would be opting-out and joining the 2010 free agent class. Since then, the Suns have been furiously cutting salary, while moving high-priced deck chairs like Shawn Marion(notes), Shaquille O'Neal(notes) and Ben Wallace(notes), along with paying money to cut themselves loose from Wallace and former coach Terry Porter's presence.
They've also been preparing for what could be an impending lockout, prepping for what could be the second straight spring without playoff revenue, and do you think (as much as they and we revere someone like Steve Nash) they would have re-signed their former MVP point man to play until he's 38 at over 11 and a half million a year had they known Stoudemire would opt in?
I think they're freaked out that Amar'e might not leave, thinking he'll act pennywise (the impending 2011 CBA will no doubt limit his chances to eventually make more money than he'd make this summer) in the face of being unable to make more than $18 million starting with a new team. And I can't blame them.
And because it's not my money, I can't blame them for looking around for expiring contracts that truly are expiring contracts, and not the sort of "expiring contract" we thought Carlos Boozer owned this time last year.
To me, the oddity in all of this isn't the Spurs, thinking aloud about a player that seems a bit unlike them. It's Phoenix. Still desperate to cut costs, fearful of being "stuck" with a player who can drop 25 and 10 in his sleep.