Wait — Amare Stoudemire spent eight years preparing for this?
Scratch that. Here's a better question. The New York Knicks spent 14 years preparing for this?
It's a marriage that seems doomed from the start. Stoudemire, a Phoenix Sun since the day he was drafted back in 2002, is finally a free agent, and he has the freedom to go wherever he pleases this July. The Knicks, who have been over the salary cap since the summer of 1996, are finally unburdened, and they have the cash to recruit the game's biggest stars.
And for some reason, the two are choosing each other.
The Knicks have been preparing for the free-agent frenzy of this summer for four years — back in 2006, when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade signed contract extensions that would lock them down through 2010, Isiah Thomas set his sights on the stars and started clearing out cap space.
Numerous draft picks were shipped away for salary relief. Decent rotation players were moved for pennies on the dollar. It was all about 2010, and it was all about LeBron and D-Wade. Now it looks doubtful that they'll get either one.
But enough about the Knicks — this is about Amare, the guy it looks like they'll settle for. The 27-year-old power forward has spent eight years in Phoenix, throwing down double-doubles with ease, piling up big numbers and big-time hype.
But he probably hasn't bought into the team concept the way the Suns hoped he would, definitely hasn't committed to playing defense and obviously hasn't won a thing in his eight seasons. Perhaps the most memorable moment of his career came when he wasn't even in a game — in the 2007 West playoffs, Amare was suspended for Game 5 of the Suns-Spurs series for leaving the bench during a late-game scuffle between Steve Nash and Robert Horry.
Ideally, Amare could turn his career around and be remembered as a winner. With his scoring prowess and freakish athletic ability, there's no reason he couldn't. But with a five-year, $100 million offer on the table from the Knicks, Amare has a chance to throw it all away.
In Phoenix, Amare made six playoff trips in eight years, reaching the Western Conference finals three times — most recently this spring, when the Suns pushed the Lakers to six games.
In New York, the odds aren't good that he'll win much of anything.
What's in this for him? What besides money, fame and the chance to stroke his ego as a big star in the Big Apple?
When you're 22 wide-eyed and blinded by the Almighty Dollar, it makes sense to chase a dream like playing for the free-spending Knicks. When you're 27 and surely beginning to think about your legacy in the game of basketball, it's more than a little iffy.
Amare has a chance this summer to finagle his way into Miami, where he could play alongside D-Wade, or possibly Chicago, next to LeBron. Who'd be his partner in crime in New York?
Not Joe Johnson — he's staying in Atlanta. Same with Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas, Rudy Gay in Memphis and Paul Pierce in Boston.
So far, this has been the summer of staying put. It's a wonder Amare isn't following suit.
He's got it made in Phoenix. He couldn't ask for a better offense-oriented point guard than Steve Nash. He's got veterans next to him in Grant Hill and Jason Richardson. He's got a big man next to him, Robin Lopez, who's young, loaded with upside, and willing to play all the defense that Amare can't. It's a perfect fit.
And yet here we are, talking about the guy leaving for the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.
It's more than a little suspect, and it seems like it's happening for all the wrong reasons. Perhaps that's the story of Amare Stoudemire's career.
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