A few months ago, I was ready to let Amare go. Then, I changed my mind. I went all in. His play the last two months of the season convinced me.
Concerns or not, and I admit that there are many (defense, rebounding, knees, eye), I wanted the Suns to bring him back, whatever the price was. I am still in that frame of mind, even if I might be in the minority.
However, because of how negotiations have gone, I feel that if he comes back, he won’t be what I feel he would have been. Here’s why:
Since he first came into the league, Stoudemire has desired to be a star—the best at his position and one of the faces of the NBA. So far, he has not been. There are a variety of reasons—injuries, not being the focal point of his team, and unfulfilled potential.
In recent negotiations, it has been made clear that the Suns will not offer more than four years on a contract. Amare wants nothing less than five. The proverbial lines in the sand have been drawn. Phoenix is banking on the idea that he will not get a better offer from another team. By doing so, they are also sending Stoudemire a message that they don’t believe in him.
How the Suns SHOULD have (in my eyes, at least) handled negotiations is different. Amare has the desire to be the best. He has overcome every obstacle in his career thus far. Yet from every direction all he seems to hear are his deficiencies—how he doesn’t rebound enough or defend better or how he seemingly gives less than all his effort.
Robert Sarver should have offered the four year deal to start, as this is what he was hoping for. Amare would have said that he wants nothing less than five years. At that point Sarver should agree to the deal, but then give an explanation of what is expected of him.
He should have told Stoudemire that he would be the team’s franchise player and that the team is going to make him the face of the franchise. That would mean a load of responsibility. He should have told him that we are going to win or lose with you, and that will be made known publicly.
Stoudemire would have to be reminded of the Phoenix fans (like me). He would have to become an elite player and lead the team, much like he did for the last two months of the past season.
If he becomes that star and leader, giving great efforts night in and night out, rebounding well and being a scoring monster, he will be adored in Phoenix, whether or not a championship is won. If he does that and brings a championship, he will be immortalized.
If he steps back, shows a lack of effort, or even just puts up the same numbers as before, not being elite, the fans will sour on him, especially with him being the face and leader of the team.
I believe that Stoudemire is longing to be “the guy” and would do all he could to become that elite and special player, but he has to be trusted to be able to do it. In my eyes, he matured as a player and as a teammate. He has to be given that chance to show it.
The problem is that negotiations didn’t go that way. Let’s say he is not offered the deal he seeks elsewhere. He will come back to the Suns, but feel slighted. Perhaps this motivates him to give an “eff you” performance to show the league that he deserved more.
However, I think it is more likely that he comes back slighted and feels that the team doesn’t trust him. He will continue to produce at levels he has in the past, but still drive us crazy by not quite achieving what we THINK he is capable of.
What does this mean? It means that I will be deprived as a fan of the greatness that Amare could show me. It means it is probably better that he go sign with another team, and it means that he will flourish there, which will frustrate me even more.
But, as we Phoenix sports fans know well, this is what happens here. We are used to it. It will simply be another kick in our badly bruised shin.
At least we may have the lottery to look forward to.
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