As Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver reaches out to other NBA owners and proposes his own trade deals for Amare Stoudemire, he could be undermining his franchise’s chance to get the best possible package for the All-Star forward, league sources said.
NBA executives say that Sarver has contacted team owners – including those of the Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies – in an attempt to broker a deal for Stoudemire. While the Suns’ basketball executives are discussing one possible package with teams, Sarver has, at times, appeared to be pursuing his own agenda.
Some teams believe this is a circumstance they can exploit, and suggest that Suns GM Steve Kerr and David Griffin, the franchise’s VP of basketball operations, have been compromised.
“It makes [the owner] look too motivated,” said one Western Conference GM who was aware of Sarver’s calls. “It makes them look desperate.”
As an Eastern Conference GM wondered: “What in the world are two owners going to come up with that the GMs haven’t already discussed?
“This is how bad deals happen.”
"As managing partner of the Suns, no difference from any CEO responsible for any company, you have responsibility for the ultimate results of an organization," Sarver said by phone Wednesday morning. "And as such, when it comes to major decisions – basketball or business – I will become heavily involved just as I have been the last five years."
Kerr and Griffin are engaged in discussions with multiple teams for Stoudemire, with Chicago, Golden State, Portland, Sacramento and Memphis and others seriously pursuing him. For the Suns to get the best possible package for Stoudemire, they need Stoudemire’s suitors to believe that they’re willing to let the trade deadline pass on Feb. 19 without moving him.
Mostly, Phoenix needs to avoid looking desperate. Yet Sarver – who has a reputation for being impulsive and overzealous – has left teams dubious of believing Kerr’s bluff that he doesn’t have to trade Stoudemire.
So far, rival GMs insist there’s no market for O’Neal – that the balance of the $20 million owed him this season and the $20 million he’ll earn next season make him untradeable.
One Western Conference GM compared interest in O’Neal with “the GOP’s interest in the current stimulus package. None.”
Most Stoudemire suitors believe the Bulls have the chance to offer the best package, which could include the expiring contract of Drew Gooden, rapidly emerging forward Tyrus Thomas, Joakim Noah and possibly a draft pick. Bulls GM John Paxson recently had his assistant, director of player personnel Gar Forman, return to Chicago from the college scouting trail to pore over trade possibilities with him. The Bulls are clearly determined to land Stoudemire.
As for the Suns, they’re still at the center of the league’s deadline discussions because they have the biggest stars on the market. A year ago, the O’Neal-Shawn Marion trade was born out of Miami Heat owner Micky Arison’s conversations with Sarver. It was the Suns owner who brought the possibility of the trade to Kerr and ex-Suns coach Mike D’Antoni.
Some owners do include themselves in trade talks. Dallas’ Mark Cuban regularly does, but works closely with Mavericks GM Donnie Nelson. League sources believe Sarver has struggled with the idea that the Suns’ best deal for Stoudemire won’t come until they’re up against the Feb. 19 deadline. Teams are doubting his patience in the process. Opponents think he wants a trade done soon, and that could have dramatic consequences for a franchise that can’t afford to bungle this deal.