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Burns & Gambo

Updated Mar 28, 2012 - 3:40 pm

Suns made right decision on Amar’e Stoudemire

At the time, it was a questionable move. Letting a star
player go in his prime. But now almost two years removed
from letting Amar’e Stoudemire walk and sign a maximum 5-
year deal worth $100 million dollars with the New York
Knicks, it’s safe to say the Phoenix Suns did the right
thing.

The Suns’ medical staff had warned management and
ownership that Stoudemire’s troublesome knees would not
hold up over the length of the contract. They figured that
he might be able to get two or three years out of the
surgically repaired knees, but definitely not five. The
feeling was that the microfracture surgery he had in 2005
would allow him to play at best another seven years before
severely limiting his ability to play the way he was
accustomed to playing.

The Suns, even with that information, attempted to sign
Stoudemire to a five-year contract extension but with the
player assuming some of the risk. The Suns wanted to
guarantee him three years and have the final two years
based on playing time in years three and four. If
Stoudemire would have stayed relatively healthy he could
have cashed in his $100 million in Phoenix. If not, he
would have received roughly $60 million. But the power
forward/center was insistent upon a fully guaranteed
maximum contract even though his knees were uninsurable.

Stoudemire talked to the Heat, but after they brought in
LeBron James and Chris Bosh, he was left with the Knicks
as the one team offering him a contract he couldn’t
refuse. New York then completed a sign and trade with
Phoenix in which the Suns got a $16.5 million trade
exception. The Knicks also went after some of the big free
agents like James that year but came away empty. They had
money to burn and needed to make a splash. So they were
the team that brought in Stoudemire regardless of his past
health.

In year one with the Knicks, Stoudemire flourished. He
played well averaging 25.3 points and 8.1 rebounds and
helping New York make the playoffs. In the four-game sweep
at the hands of the Boston Celtics, Stoudemire hurt his
back. In the series, he averaged 14.5 points and 7.8
rebounds.

And now in the midst of the worst season of his career
where he is averaging just 17.6 points and shooting .477,
it is obvious that he is not the same player he once was
having lost the explosion that once made him great,
Stoudemire is hurt again. A bulging disk in his back
threatening to sideline him for the rest of the season.
And with the Knicks having $65 million left on that
contract and no ability to amnesty him because they
already used that option on Chauncey Billups, New York
could be in salary cap hell if Stoudemire can’t return to
form. While no one knows for sure, the Suns’ medical staff
did believe at the time that Stoudemire’s knee injuries
would lead to other significant injuries. So it’s quite
possible the various knee injuries are causing the current
back problems.

The Knicks are one of of the few teams that can afford to
pay the luxury tax, which is why they can make mistakes
like Stoudemire and find a way to deal with it. The Suns
are not. They could not have had three years of dead money
on their roster and weren’t willing to take the chance of
having to pay a player for multiple injury prone years
without the benefit of insurance.

Now what Phoenix did after losing Stoudemire can not be
open for debate. They flat out screwed up in signing Hakim
Warrick, Josh Childress and trading for Hedo Turkoglu. The
Suns rebounded from the Turkoglu disaster by pulling off a
good trade that netted Marcin Gortat from Orlando. But
still, they didn’t spend their money wisely after losing a
dominant big man who led them to two Western Conference
Finals appearances in his eight years in the desert.

So while neither team has really benefited, at least the
Suns aren’t stuck with that massive contract on an injured
player who his a shell of his former self.

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