Not … so … fast.
Stoudemire said Wednesday he is seriously considering postponing his free agency to take the $17.7 million player option on his contract for next season.
“There’s definitely a chance,” Stoudemire told Yahoo! Sports following the Phoenix Suns’ shootaround on Wednesday morning. “Options are a beautiful thing.”
The Suns are also assessing their options with their All-Star forward. NBA sources say the team is expected to make another contract extension offer to Stoudemire before the All-Star break, though it remains to be seen whether the Suns’ offer will approach the three-year, $57 million extension Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol(notes) received earlier this season.
Already, the Suns have begun fielding trade offers for Stoudemire, who said Wednesday he thinks there’s a “50-50” chance he’ll be playing for a different team after the Feb. 18 trade deadline. If Stoudemire doesn’t agree to an extension soon, the Suns could intensify their efforts to move him.
One NBA source said the Suns, so far, have received only “trash” offers for Stoudemire, though there are several teams who have expressed interest in him. The Miami Heat recently scouted two of the Suns’ games, even though the teams won’t play each other again this season.
Stoudemire has reasons to stay in Phoenix; he has close family and business interests there. But he also said it “won’t be tough” for him to adjust to a new team if he’s traded.
“I want to win,” Stoudemire said. “Winning is my ultimate goal. That’s my preference. I think the situation here, we’ve been doing a good job the past few games of winning. We just need to keep it going.”
If Stoudemire opts out of his contract, he will join a crowded free-agent class that includes LeBron James(notes), Dwyane Wade(notes) and Chris Bosh(notes). If he elects to play the final season of his contract – and passes on an extension – he’ll become a free agent the summer of 2011 and could have a better idea about the Suns’ future plans.
“We’re just going with the flow and seeing what the Suns decide to do,” said Stoudemire’s agent, Happy Walters. “Whatever happens, I think Amar’e will be good with the outcome. … Opting in – that’s a lot of money to walk away from.”
The current collective bargaining agreement is set to end after the 2010-11 season, but Stoudemire doesn’t seem concerned about a possible lockout or how the new CBA might impact his future earnings.
“I’m not sure how the CBA’s going to turn out,” Stoudemire said. “But I got confidence in the Players Association. They are going to make sure they handle that.”
This much is clear: Stoudemire figures to be swept up by speculation as the trade deadline approaches. He recently averaged 14.3 points over a three-game stretch, and was benched by Suns coach Alvin Gentry during the fourth quarter of a victory over the Dallas Mavericks. Gentry thought the trade talk was beginning to affect Stoudemire, who has since bounced back by averaging 27 points over the Suns' past three games. He scored 20 and grabbed 17 rebounds in a victory Wednesday against the Nuggets.
“I just told him there is not anything that he could control and I can control,” Gentry said. “The only thing we can control is to get him playing at the high level he was. Eventually, whatever happens is going to happen. To spend time worrying about it and put him in a position where he’s not performing is not good for him anyway. He has to put that behind him, which is not easy to do when his name is out there all the time. But it’s something he has to do.”
Stoudemire admits this isn’t new for him. Despite being a five-time All-Star, he has been repeatedly mentioned in trade rumors over the past few seasons. One rival general manager said the Suns’ willingness to include Stoudemire in such talks should make teams all the more wary about trading for him. Stoudemire also has had major eye and knee surgeries in past seasons.
Asked why he is constantly mentioned in trade speculation, Stoudemire said: “I don’t know. You have to ask the Phoenix Suns organization. You have to ask [Suns GM] Steve Kerr or [owner] Robert Sarver that question. … I’m not sure.”