For weeks, Amare Stoudemire was rumored to be headed out of Phoenix. The Atlanta Hawks won’t get any such breaks.
The Suns, who have taken a gamble by sticking with their star forward who could leave the team after this season, look to continue their home dominance of the Hawks on Friday night.
Phoenix (32-23) decided Stoudemire was too integral to its plans to succeed this postseason, letting Thursday’s trade deadline pass without dealing the veteran big man. Stoudemire was at the center of trade speculation, mostly because he can opt out of the final year of his contract worth $17.7 million next season.
Now the Suns will end up with nothing but extra money to spend in free agency if he decides to leave.
General manager Steve Kerr decided that standing pat was the best option for Phoenix, which has a three-game lead for a Western Conference playoff spot with 27 games left.
“I’ve maintained that unless there was something out there that improved our team and put us in a lot better position moving forward, then we weren’t going to do anything. And that was the case,” Kerr said.
Stoudemire, averaging 21.4 points and 8.7 rebounds, did his best to handle the rumors. Though he has been facing constant questions about his status, the eight-year veteran has averaged 26.6 points and 11.7 rebounds over his last seven games.
“He’s fine with what happened. He always has been with the Suns. He likes the team. He loves the city. He’ll go 110 percent the rest of the year,” said Stoudemire’s agent, Happy Walters.
Stoudemire had 30 points and 14 rebounds in Phoenix’s 107-97 loss at Dallas on Wednesday night. The Suns have lost two of three after winning their previous five.
Phoenix, which has played six of its last seven on the road, is hosting four of its next five. The Suns have won 14 of their last 16 home games against the Hawks (34-18), who are trying to win three straight road games for the first time this season.
Atlanta has won four of five overall, but two of the victories were against the lowly Los Angeles Clippers. The Hawks went 0 for 7 from 3-point range but still shot 54.4 percent from the field in a 110-92 win over the Clippers on Wednesday night.
Atlanta got an outstanding performance from Al Horford(notes). The third-year center scored a career-high 31 points in his 200th NBA game, helping the Hawks set a season high with 70 points in the paint.
“Obviously, I’m more concerned about winning,” said Horford, who will be matched up at times with Stoudemire on Friday. “But when you’re able to do something like that individually, it always feels good.”
Crawford had 12 points versus the Clippers despite playing with a sore left shoulder, and he’s 28 away from 10,000 in his career.
Crawford’s 648 games without making the postseason is the longest drought among any active player. That has a good chance of changing this season, though, with the Hawks in third place in the East.