Perhaps signaling a willingness to dismantle their roster, the Phoenix Suns have begun exchanging trade proposals with teams for All-Star forward Amare Stoudemire, league executives told Yahoo! Sports on Thursday.
With dysfunction and dissension reigning within the Suns, rival front-office executives believe general manager Steve Kerr is determined to move Stoudemire and others before the Feb. 19 trade deadline.
While Stoudemire, 26, is the Suns’ most valuable asset, sources say Kerr has told teams that he’s willing to trade anyone on his roster except for point guard Steve Nash.
“Everyone is on the table but Nash,” one executive said.
Phoenix owner Robert Sarver has been more reluctant to part with Stoudemire and still hasn’t yet given his blessing to act on a Stoudemire proposal. Nevertheless, most believe that Sarver will inevitably do so.
While there will likely be some interest in a rejuvenated Shaquille O’Neal, it is Stoudemire, the enigmatic 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward, whom most NBA teams have an interest in acquiring.
If Kerr and assistant GM David Griffin do trade Stoudemire, a four-time All-Star, they want a combination of expiring contracts, a talented young player – preferably a forward – and draft picks. Stoudemire is expected to opt out of his contract for the historic free-agent summer of 2010. He makes $15 million this season and $16.3 million next season. His relationship with Suns management has steadily deteriorated and few expect that either side is interested in a contract extension.
Phoenix made the biggest move of the trade deadline a year ago, trading Shawn Marion for Shaquille O’Neal in a deal that the Suns believed could help them overtake the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference. Yet, the Suns lost to the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs, which turned into a prelude to an acrimonious exit with coach Mike D’Antoni.
This season, Phoenix has struggled to a 26-21 record, which leaves them tied for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Suns were blown out Wednesday night in Golden State, 124-112.
With O’Neal clogging the middle, Stoudemire has expressed frustration with a diminished offensive role. Stoudemire still flusters his GM and coach because of an unwillingness to commit to anything but scoring. Stoudemire’s scoring and rebounding averages have dropped this season, and he recently told Yahoo! Sports that he was struggling with an offense that features fewer pick-and-rolls for him, fewer touches in the low post.
“It is harder,” Stoudemire said. “When you’re in the flow, everything flows. When you’re not, sometimes it’s hard to get involved.”
After the loss to Golden State, Stoudemire told reporters, “To keep losing these games the way we are, it's not fun. I'm not used to it. It's almost against my religion.”
Sources believe the Suns are more apt to shop Stoudemire to the Eastern Conference, where Toronto and New York are natural possibilities. Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo drafted Stoudemire for the Suns, and Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni helped turn him into an All-Star. Still, the acrimonious nature of Colangelo’s and D’Antoni’s departures could lessen Phoenix management’s willingness to deal with them.
Nevertheless, Phoenix promises once more to be at the center of the league’s biggest trade talks leading up to the deadline.