The Phoenix Suns of the National Basketball Association (NBA) have one of the premier players in the league in Amar’e Stoudemire. They may lose him to free agency this off-season though, if they cannot come up with an offer that competes with what another team may give him. Even though they have an advantage over the other teams because Amar’e appears to want to stay here, they will still have to pay him close to a maximum contract to keep him. If the Suns lose Amar’e to free agency, they will lose more than just points scored and other statistics from the basketball player nicknamed STAT, they will lose a commodity that brings people to the games, increases excitement for their fans, puts a national spotlight on the organization and money in their pockets. If Robert Sarver, majority owner of the Suns, fails to re-sign Amar’e he automatically diminishes his product in a way that can’t easily be fixed anytime soon by just adding any other player they manage to sign in the off-season. It will affect the interest level of even lifelong Suns fans like me and hit the franchise in the pocketbook. They must re-sign Amar’e Stoudemire even if they have to give him a maximum contract and pay him more than they think he is worth.
It is likely that other teams will offer Amar’e a maximum contract or very near to add one of the games most exciting and dominant inside players. He is one of the best scorers in the game and can take over a game especially on the offensive end. He would be a valuable addition to any team that needs an inside game. If another team offers Amar’e a maximum contract and the Suns do not come up with a comparable offer, he will most likely leave and he has stated as much.
Amar’e has suggested recently that he helped bring excitement for the NBA to the valley and he implies if he leaves the NBA buzz will be gone as well. I always have been a Suns fan and I have managed to watch most of the games over the last 20 years. I remember going to Suns games at the old arena nicknamed the Mad House on McDowell with my father. My interest was at an all-time high with Sir Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Tom Chambers and the rest of the high-scoring Suns during the early Nineties. When I first saw Amar’e Stoudemire play in his rookie year and throw down powerful and athletic dunks over other bigger and more established players, he immediately became my favorite Suns player. I still marvel at the skills of the other players. I am still awed by Steve Nash’s shooting and passing abilities, but Amar’e Stoudemire making a move in the lane and powering past another NBA player for an in-your-face slam dunk is one of the most exciting plays to see in sports. If the Suns lose Amar’e to free agency, the fans lose those dunks and that excitation only he brings.
The Phoenix Suns style of basketball and offensive firepower does bring its own passion to their games as well. The Suns had the highest team scoring average of any team in the league at 110 points per game and had the best three point shooting percentage at 41.2% according to NBA.com. The three point shot in basketball is one of the more thrilling plays and the Suns are incredibly fun to watch especially when they are playing hard on the defensive end. Plenty of NBA fever will be left in the Phoenix Suns arena even if Amar’e goes. Opponents to overpaying Stoudemire would point out that he is not the only reason for excitement about the Suns. I would agree. Amar’e is not the only component to an entertaining basketball team, but he does have that star quality and ferocity to his game on the court that makes him a very valuable part of that emotion. If he leaves, a big part of that fanaticism for the team leaves as well.
Amar’e is a unique talent in the league . His game has intangible qualities that go beyond his obvious athletic talent and skills, to make him almost irreplaceable. Other players exist in the league with jaw-dropping, explosive leaping ability. Other players have his outside shooting touch (he is one of the best shooting big men in the NBA) and ability to score. Few players have all those skills and even fewer come in the package that Amar’e presents at 6’10” and 249 pounds. There are not many of them, but there are others, with that special quality that just makes fans pay attention. The problem is that to acquire one of these players like Amar’e, a team has to get lucky. The Suns were lucky to acquire him at the ninth spot in the NBA draft. If they lose him this year, they will have to get lucky to replace him.
Robert Sarver and the Suns may be reluctant to give Amar’e the maximum contract that they are allowed to because the Suns believe that Amar’e is not always a maximum effort player. He has shown considerable strides in this last regular season with his effort on the defensive end and rebounding, two very key areas in which he seemed to lack effort. However, in the post-season this year, he again disappeared or was inconsistent in those areas. He may have lost some of his bargaining chips because of that. Other teams may not be as interested. The Miami Heat’s Pat Riley has already indicated that he would prefer Chris Bosh or Carlos Boozer over Amar’e and Miami was one of the more plausible destinations just before the trade deadline this last season. That could be good for the Suns looking to keep him at less than maximum. However, even if they have to pay him the maximum allowed money, they should because they would be losing revenue on the other end if they don’t. As I said before Amar’e is not all the excitement, but he is a big part of it. He is not all the revenue, but he is a big part of it. People will come to the Suns games if they are winning. More people will come to the Suns games if they are winning and have gravitating and exciting star players. The NBA is the most star driven sports league there is. All the focus is on the star players and Amar’e is one of those star players.
The Suns and Amar’e have tough decisions to make this summer. It is potentially the biggest off-season ever in terms of the amount of big named free agents. Amar’e will first test the waters and then will have to make his decision on where to go. The Suns will have a chance to lock him up before he gets very far if they offer him the maximum contract that he wants upfront. They probably won’t do that, but they should come back to him after he has received other offers and lock him up at that point with whatever amount it takes. Losing Amar’e Stoudemire this off-season would go a long way to crushing the great momentum and enthusiasm that they built with the outstanding regular season and post-season performance that they turned in. The fans of the Phoenix Suns need to hope that Amar’e is back for next year and if he isn’t back fans will all be at least a little disappointed in the team that shows up.
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