PHOENIX - JUNE 22: Amar'e Stoudemire of the Phoenix Suns attends the Major League Baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on June 22, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Suns Complete Amar'e Sign-And-Trade, Acquire Warrick

The Phoenix Suns completed a sign-and-trade with the New York Knicks to send newly-inked Amar'e Stoudemire away in return for a traded player exception and other considerations. Part of the TPE was used to nab Hakim Warrick from the Bulls in a second sign-and-trade.

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Rumor: Suns Back In The David Lee Hunt? Should They Be?

Just when you think the final chapter in Amar'e's departure has been written...

The latest rumor from our most reliable source, Mr. Coro of the venerable Arizona Republic (seriously, this Internet thing is fun and all but we would be lost without the newspapers), is that the Suns might be back in line to get David Lee.

As the rumor goes, the Suns would do a sign-and-trade with the Knicks that could land David Lee in Phoenix... or Chicago.

The Knicks benefit with a small bump in cap space by starting Stoudemire's contract at a lower first-year salary because the deal can have 10.5 percent raises via Phoenix rather than 8 percent raises if done by New York.

The key for any Lee sign-and-trade deal is Lee. He gets to pick where he wants to play, and part of that will be a salary negotiation process. If Lee's value on the open market is too high due to this crazy free agent summer situation so many teams are in, then the Suns should pass.

Five years for $70 million is too much for David Lee. If, however, his market value is closer to $50 million and he wants to play in Phoenix, then this could be a good deal for the Suns.

We just don't know at this point what kind of fat contract Lee can get from other teams such as the Bulls or Heat who might be desperate if Bosh doesn't give them The Rose in this giant game of Free Agent Bachelor. Other teams such as the Warriors and Timberwolves are also reportedly interested in Lee and could have much more appealing assets to send back to New York, as well.

It's a complicated situation with a lot of parties involved. A situation that really calls for an experienced and knowledgeable front office executive. Too bad the Suns don't have one of those right now.

At a minimum, the Suns could AND SHOULD be working with the Knicks to at least get a trade exception back for Stoudemire, which could be used down the road to acquire another player via trade even if the Suns are over the salary cap. For the Suns, who will likely end up just slightly over the salary cap, but well below the luxury tax, this could be a useful tool.

The problem seems to be that without a general manager and assistant general manager in Phoenix it would appear that no one understood the rules well enough to suggest a creative deal like this. At least that's what ESPN's John Hollinger asserts in this article (Insider).

There's certainly evidence to support Hollinger's theory, given the repeated word from the Suns (via reporting citing sources) that they were renouncing Amar'e's Bird Rights when, in fact, they had no need to do so at this point in the process. Those reports never made sense when they first came out a few days ago as the Suns could simply execute the sign-and-trade prior to signing Channing Frye and Hakim Warrick. The timing and details are complicated, but surely could be worked out.

One can only hope that Robert Sarver has at least engaged the consulting services of a cap expert who can make sure the Suns aren't leaving options unexplored. That would be a unfortunate outcome of the untimely departure of Steve Kerr and David Griffin.

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Rumor: Suns Actively Seeking To Trade Leandro Barbosa

According to a tweet from Hoops World, the Suns are doing what many have considered an obvious move -- looking to move Leandro Barbosa. The Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics are rumored to be "very interested."

Barbosa is one of the top bench scorers in the league, who has the ability to use his exceptional quickness to get to the rim and is also an excellent outside shooter. He struggled last season with a wrist injury that resulted in surgery to remove a cyst and kept him off the court for almost two months. When he returned, he found that the Suns were getting much better production from Goran Dragic and Barbosa's minutes declined.

Barbosa is a typical combo-guard in that he's the size of a point guard, but has a scorer's mentality. The Suns over the years tried to use him as a back-up point guard, but his vision and distribution skills were lacking. Defensively, Barbosa can't handle bigger shooting guards in the league.

LB is best-suited to come off the bench and play 20 to 25 minutes per game providing a spark of speed and a scoring punch. There are few other guards in the league better in that role.

But for the Suns, he is limited in playing opportunities with Jason Richardson having locked up the starting two guard position and Goran Dragic proving to be a much better back-up point guard. Dragic, a much better natural defender, can also play the backup shooting guard and has also shown to have solid shooting touch from range, which lets him play off the ball.

Barbosa is owed $7.1 million for next season and has a player option for $7.6 million in the 2011/12 season. Moving him is an obvious and expected decision for the Suns, who can use the salary savings to create flexibility going forward, stockpile more draft picks, or try and find a solid back-up center to play behind Robin Lopez.

If the Suns were to move Barbosa, they would probably want to find two additional guards to provide roster depth. A bigger, defensive oriented shooting guard would be ideal along with another combo guard who could be the third point guard in the depth chart.

Undrafted Villanova stand-out Scottie Reynolds will play for the Suns in the Vegas Summer League, as will Zabian Dowdell, who's played a few years overseas and is a player the Suns have always liked. Both would be much less expensive options in the combo guard role given the limited playing opportunities the team has for that spot.

[Note by Seth Pollack, 07/04/10 9:45 AM MST ]

The Boston Herald also reports interest by the Celtics in acquiring Barbosa as a backup to Rajon Rondo. The Celitcs could be dangling Rasheed Wallace, who has said he would retire this summer. With two years left on his contract (about $13 million), he would provide immediate salary savings if he followed through on his retirement statement.

If not, the Suns would have to buy out Wallace and his salary would count against the salary cap. It's a dicey proposition and the Suns can probably do better or at least demand more from the Celtics.

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Kurt Thomas Could Provide Leadership And Toughness To Suns Front Court

As Amare Stoudemire edges closer and closer to signing with the New York Knicks (good luck with that, Amare), the Suns are considering bringing back a familiar face, Kurt Thomas.

The Arizona Republic is reporting -- along with lot of other minor details about Amare's departure -- that free agent Lou Amundson has now been priced out of the Suns range and they are considering Thomas as a minimum salary addition.

Thomas, a 37 year old vet with 16 years of NBA service, last played in Phoenix from 2005 to 2007 before being traded in a salary saving move that cost the Suns two first round draft picks, as well.

Thomas would be a great addition to the Suns, providing veteran leadership and toughness to what's otherwise a fairly young front court. While Channing Frye and Hakim Warrick both have several years of NBA experience, neither has been in a consistent starting role or shouldered the responsibilities of mentoring younger players.

Suns ower Robert Sarver recently expressed his appreciation for the "defense wins championships" mentality and bringing in a tough vet like Kurt would be consistent with that approach.

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Amar'e's 1st Day As A Free Agent, It's A Hard Hard Life

In his first full day as an unrestricted free agent, Amare Stoudemire got right down to the business of being wooed.

It might seem like hard work being one of a select few available big men in a league full of teams loaded with cap space during a hole in their pockets but fortunately, thanks to these updates from his crew, we can rest assured that Stoudemire is surviving the ordeal.

Here's Amare at the pool doing mental rehab after a meeting with the Miami Heat and prehaps a brief encounter with the Knicks and some phone calls with a few others.

Amare_at_pool_medium

And of course, Amare needs to replenish his engine so he can keep up with the demands of free agent life. So a meal by his personal chef Maxcel Hardy who prepared a light menu consisting of oxtails, fish, roasted chicken, collard greens, garlic mash, macaroni, and cornbread. Delicious and healthy too.

Yum, oxtails!

Amare_food_medium

(Photos and menu provided by Travis King, President of Amare Stoudemire Enterprises)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, rumors abounded that the Suns were competing for Amare's services with several teams including Miami, New York, Chicago, New Jersey and the Los Angeles Clippers along with Cleveland and Houston and maybe even Toronto.

As the day progressed, word came down that the chances of Amare returning as a Sun had been downgraded from unlikely to "highly unlikely" with one source even going as far to say that there is "NO chance" of his return.

Details are sketchy.

The New York Knicks may or may not have made Amare an offer and that offer may or may not be of the Max Offer variety. Amare is currently scheduled to fly to New York (where there may or may not be pools and good food) to meet with the Knicks.

The Knicks would be wise however, to meet with Amare in some place other than their building which is now shadowed by the giant visages of New Jersey Nets owners Mikhail Prokhorov and Jay-Z.

Embarrassing!!!

From there, it's anyone's guess where Amare will land. Reports are Houston has him second on their shopping list behind Chris Bosh and have some tasty pieces they would be willing to part with to get him including Luis Scola, Trevor Ariza, Shane Batier and future draft picks.

That would be grand news for the Suns as they otherwise face the very real prospect of Amare leaving with only a parting tweet as their reward.

I opted out of my contract with PHX. Can't wait to see what lies ahead. I had a blast with my teammates last season. What's Next !!less than a minute ago via Echofon

 

Fortunately, tomorrow as a whole new day for free agency. I can't wait to see what that brings.

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Conflicting Rumor: Suns Did Offer Stoudemire 5-Year Deal

In direct contradiction to the previous update, Yahoo! Sports is reporting the Suns did offer Stoudemire a five-year deal.

Free-agent buzz: Heat to meet Amar'e - NBA - Yahoo! Sports
Stoudemire is competing with Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer to join Dwyane Wade with the Heat. After opting out of his contract on Wednesday, Stoudemire is set to meet with several teams, sources said.

The Suns have offered him a five-year maximum contract with injury protections in the fifth year.

Nevertheless, Stoudemire has been slow to commit to Suns owner Robert Sarver, whose financial commitment to compete with the Western Conference elite has been unclear. Several teams without salary-cap space, including Cleveland, Orlando and Houston are interested in making presentations to Stoudemire. They hope to acquire him through sign-and-trades.

Typically, local sources skew towards spinning things the team's way or perhaps the player via agents. National sources are often executives from other teams who may or may not be speculating and may or may not be advancing their own agenda.

When it comes to rumors, buyer beware.

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Early Rumors: Stoudemire Gone, Suns Wouldn't Offer 5 Years

Early rumors from local sources lean towards Amar'e Stoudemire leaving Phoenix.

Twitter / Paul Coro: Sources repeatedly say Sto ...
Sources repeatedly say Stoudemire wants to be in Phx. One said he'd take a 5-yr deal if Phx offered it. Maybe at less than max $.

Twitter / John Gambadoro: Based on my latest phone c ...
Based on my latest phone conversation it does not appear that the Amare Stoudemire will remain with the Phoenix Suns

Twitter / John Gambadoro: Amare won't settle for les ...
Amare won't settle for less than a 5 year deal, Phoenix not willing to go more then 4 years. Pat Riley flew to LA to meet with Amare tonite

If the Suns wouldn't offer five years, then the Suns never really expected Stoudemire would stay. You can argue if that's the right or wrong thing for the franchise but it's pretty clear that someone is going to offer Stoudemire at least a five-year deal.

The question now, is if Stoudemire can get six years from another team. If he does, than the Suns have a chance to get something back in a sign-and-trade. If teams such as Miami, New Jersey or New York offer him five years, then they have no need to deal with the Suns since they have the cap space to sign Stoudemire.

Stay tuned. I suspect things are going to move fast.

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Rumor: Houston Interested In Amare, Amare Tweets Farewell

We've long thought that Houston was a team who would make a run at Amare given how hard they went after him at the trade deadline and how desperate they seem to bring in another big name front court player to go with Yao Ming.

So it came as no surprised when KTAR tweeted this rumor:

Twitter / John Gambadoro: New developments - Houston ...
New developments - Houston Rockets interested in Amare Stoudemire. Would likely be a sign and trade with Luis Scola and Battier if it hapens

Shane Battier, 32 year old small forward, has about $7.4m left on his contract which expires at the end of next season. Luis Scola is a 30 year old power forward from Argentina. He's a restricted free agent.

To make the numbers work, assuming another player wasn't involved, the Suns would sign Amare and then immediately trade him for Scola who would have to agree to a new contract with the Rockets which would be traded to the Suns along with Battier.

It's a complicated arrangement but could yield the Suns a replacement power forward, albeit one who's not nearly as productive as Amare, along with Battier. Battier has a favorable expiring contract and is generally considered one of the best defensive players in the league and is good friends with fellow Duke grad Grant Hill.

The Suns would surely hesitate sending Amare to a Western Conference foe.

Meanwhile, just hours before free agency official begins Amare tweeted this message which seems an awful lot like a goodbye:

Twitter / Amar'e Stoudemire: I opted out of my contract ...
I opted out of my contract with PHX. Can't wait to see what lies ahead. I had a blast with my teammates last season. What's Next !!

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Amare Opts Out, Now The Fun Can Begin

As expected all along, Amare Stoudemire is opting out of the final year of his contract.

This takes the possibility of an extension with the Suns off the table.

Amare will now listen to offers from other teams and perhaps bring those back to the Suns to see if they are willing to match.

It remains unclear if the Suns offered Amare a four-year extension (for a total of five years) which would have paid him about $104m as opposed to about $100m he can get with a new team.

If so, than Amare and his agent must think they can get another team to offer a six-year deal and put together a sign-and-trade package that entices the Suns.

In the short term, those details don’t matter. In the long run the offer that Robert Sarver made to Amare will be a strong indication of how bad the Suns really wanted him to stay and what they felt his value was to the team.

A three-year extension offer (total of four years) means the Suns never expected him to stay.

A four-year extension offer (total of five years) means the Suns are trying to get the best possible deal as they still hold the cards and can prevent Amare from getting a six-year deal.

In the mean time, Amare will join LeBron and the other group of highly valued free agents in the scrum that begins tomorrow.

For more on which teams have how much cap space to spend on free agents see this excellent break down from SB Nation.com.

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Amare Continues To Tease Suns Fans

Multiple sources have reported that Amare and his Happy agent met for three hours yesterday with Alvin Gentry and Robert Sarver. They will meet again today in Los Angeles where Amare apparently has an office. That they meet so long and they continue to meet today is in fact a very interesting development.

The Arizona Republic reports that the Suns are offering four years at max salary (approx. $80m) which is certainly less than Amare could get in the open market. As a free agent, other teams can offer Amare a five year deal with 8 percent annual raises for a total of about $101m.

If the Suns were to offer Amare five years as well (approx. $104m) as the Republic reported the Suns might consider, then the ball would be in Amare's court to go out and try and get another team willing to give him six years (approx $132m).

The problem for Amare is that to get six years from another team, the Suns would have to be a willing participant in a sign-and-trade since only the Suns can offer Amare six years and 10.5 percent annual raises as opposed to a new team which can offer five years and 8 percent increases.

So basically for Amare the situation is this:

  • If the Suns are only offering four years than Amare would clearly opt out and find another team that would give him five years with the 8 percent increases giving him about $18m more on the contract than the Suns offer
  • If the the Suns are in fact willing to go to five years, than the situation becomes more complex for Amare because he would have to both find another team willing to give him six years AND get the Suns to agree to a sign-and-trade

The fact that these conversations are still going strongly implies that the Suns have in fact indicated their willingness to go to five years, otherwise there would be little to talk about.

Amare has teased Suns fans since his rookie season with periods of MVP level play followed by inexplicable slumps of inconsistent effort. For the past two years Amare has been on the trading block more times than we can count. And now, down to the final hours of the last act the tease continues.

The Suns have until 9pm Arizona time today to extend Amare or he becomes a free agent (unless he picks up the player option on the final year of his existing contract and chooses $17.7m for one year over the multiple year deals he's already been offered).

The good news for fans sick of the roller coaster is that one way or the other we will know for sure where Amare will be spending the next few years within a couple of days.

Until that happens, everything else is just reading the tea leaves and sorting through the disinformation being spread by both camps.

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Suns Balking At Stoudemire's Knees. Real Or Smokescreen?

The general talk for some time now is that the reason the Suns don’t want to give Amare the six-year max deal he’s seeking is due to his knees and eye injury. A theory reinforced in today’s AZ Republic story.

Most NBA contracts can be insured up to 80 percent of the value so if a player in the middle of a huge, long-term deal can no longer play the team has some protection from what would otherwise be a guaranteed contract that could drag them right to the bottom of the league.

Say for example, Stoudemire who had micro-fracture surgery in 2006, reached the end of that repair’s life when he’s three years into a six year contract. The team would be on the hook for three more years of max salary for a guy they couldn’t trade and couldn’t play and can’t insure. That’s a HUGE risk.

On the other hand, if Stoudemire’s knee’s check out fine (we’re not doctors but we play them on the Web) then this entire thing could just be a smoke screen to avoid the obvious – The Suns don’t feel that Amare is a franchise guy and don’t want to get married to him for another six years.

I don’t believe this is (only) about the money. Even at the max salary, Stoudemire would only be a portion of the total payroll and Sarver understands the need to pay a top tier guy, top tier money.

I just don’t think the Suns believe in Amare enough to invest six full years and the knees and eye make for a convenient excuse because it has plenty of believability.

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Rumor: Amare Interested In Knicks, We're Not Buying It

With the official start of the LeBron Sweepstakes Free Agency Feeding Frenzy just days away, we can expect the hours leading up to July 1 to be filled with rumors of this sort.

This from Knicks beat writer Alan Hahn:

Twitter / Alan Hahn: Source says Amar'e will wa ...
Source says Amar'e will wait to hear from the Knicks after midnight on July 1 but would be interested in a meeting and reuniting with MDA.

Twitter / Alan Hahn: Joe Johnson and Amar'e Sto ...
Joe Johnson and Amar'e Stoudemire (close friends) are very much still the likely duo for Knicks if LeBron doesn't come.

Dollars to giant doughnuts from Lamar's (seriously, try them) this rumor comes from Amare's camp and is just part of the whole kabuki dance that agents are playing. In this case, Amare's agent Happy Walters (of Happy Gilmore fame) is mostly likely doing everything he can to drive up the perceived demand for his client and that means floating rumors like this.

New York, who will have a ton of money burning a hole in their pocket if they miss out on LeBron, would certainly appear to be a logical destination for Stoudemire and there's little doubt they would be willing to give him the max deal he seeks.

The problem is, Mike D'Antoni and Amare have a relationship from their time in Phoenix and it's not a good one.

Amare took plenty of parting shots at his former coach right after he left and felt that D'Antoni used him improperly by making him play centers on the defensive end of the floor. Amare feels, with some justification, that his reputation as a poor defender stems from having to guard much bigger players and try and bang with them in the paint for rebounds.

Amare also never enjoyed a tight personal relationship with the enigmatic Italian who as a coach is known to have "his guys" - Amare was never one of those.

While Mike was more circumspect about his feelings for Amare he also never clearly expressed the kind of public love that one would expect given their many years together.

Could Amare end up reuniting with D'Antoni in New York? Sure, but it can't be high on either man's list of preferred outcomes. But as they say, money talks. If some of the other free agent dominoes don't fall New York's way and Amare is faced with a 4 year offer from Phoenix or a 5 or even 6 year offer from New York...well, we know how that will turn out.

Other teams that could make a play for Amare include Houston or Washington. Neither team has the cap space to sign Amare outright, but both have expressed interest him over the past few trade deadline cycles. If either team were willing to give Amare a full 6 year max deal, they could entice Phoenix with some interesting pieces via sign-and-trade.

It is also quite easy to see why Miami is still many people's most likely destination (mine included). If LeBron and Bosh go to Chicago who now has both the cap room and the best existing roster, that leaves Boozer and Amare being courted by the Nets, Knicks, Heat and Wizards who all need help at power forward.

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Suns Owner Confirms Willingness To Pay Amar'e Max Money, Not Max Years

Suns owner Robert Sarver was on KTAR radio today for over an hour answering questions. He was asked about his willingness to sign Amar'e Stoudemire to a maximum contract and responded:

"When you look at who your highest paid player on your team is going to be and you look at a long term contract and you're looking at - now I've given Amare a max contract before, he already had a max contract before, he's finishing that up. I think when you look at a second max contract for a player you need to look at ability on the court, you need to look at leadership and you need to look at health and all those things play a factor.

And so, I am prepared to give Amare a max contract, it's going to be a question is for how long. I think that's the biggest issue to be honest with you."

 

Audio can be here hear (via Sports 620 KTAR): Sarver on KTAR 062310

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Rumor: Amare Not Top Target In New Jersey

Just as reliable as Phoenix temperatures exceeding 100 degrees for the next three months, the Amare free agent rumors will be heating up as well.

The latest is this tiny bit of gruel out of New Jersey:

Boozer/Wesley Johnson package deal to Nets? - TrueHoop Blog - ESPN
The selection of Johnson would be a strong tip-off, sources say, that New Jersey will be chasing Boozer hardest when free agency commences, ahead of potential targets such as Phoenix’s Amare Stoudemire.

From a Suns perspective, the more teams that don't want Amare, the better. It seems pretty clear that the plan in Phoenix is to sit back and wait and see if teams really are going to offer Amare the full six-year max deal.

Here's a quick recap of how things could play out, assuming (as seems most likely) that Amare becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1:

1) Best case - no other team offers Amare more than the four-year deal that the Suns reportedly feel is fair. If offers from other teams are low enough, Amare very well could choose to stay in Phoenix for a matching offer.

2) Worst case - another team offers Amare the max, which would be five years and 8% annual increases and Amare signs elsewhere and the Suns get nothing in return.

3) Mid case - multiple teams are vying for Amare and to get him are willing to do a sign-and-trade with Phoenix so Amare can take advantage of the Suns Bird Rights and get a six-year deal with 10.5% annual increases. In this case, the Suns would at least get something in return for Amare's departure, even if it's just a trade exception which can be used to go over the salary cap to acquire another player via trade.

As for Amare being seen at last night's Diamondbacks game wearing a NY Yankees hat ... well, that's nothing new. I've seen Amare wear that cap many times. Like many misguided people, he's a Yankee's fan.

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