It's not shocker that Amare Stoudemire's first return to Phoenix -- where he played for the Suns for seven years -- would generate plenty of chatter. It was very interesting, however, to see what direction those conversations took today when Steve Nash and Alvin Gentry answered questions about their former comrade. For Nash, it turned into a reflection on how close the Suns were last season to winning and Gentry revealed some interesting thoughts on Amare's decision to leave.
"We lost an All-Star power forward and we didn't replace him. We have no real kind of power forward," Nash said about life without Amare.
It's been an adjustment for the Suns, according to Nash, to play more isolation basketball and not have that pick-and-roll go-to move late in games. Combined with "so much change" on the roster, the Suns aren't as efficient as they were in the past -- which is to say they are not as efficient as when Amare was here.
Nash is certainly frustrated with losing, but won't go so far as to publicly blame the franchise for everything that's gone wrong. He says the players need to take some of the blame for not playing well.
"I can't be critical of that. That's not my money," Nash said about the decision to not re-sign Amare.
"Obviously, I wanted Amare to stay."
In the end, at least publicly, Nash once again stated his commitment to the Suns organization and his teammates, which is surely the quote that Robert Sarver will be paying the most attention so.
"Yeah. I signed up for this. I'm committed to trying to build a team here," he said.
Alvin Gentry laments the departure of Amare, as well, and while he deflected questions about the specifics of the contract negotiation, he did state that the Suns offered a max contract. That's a slight variation on what Robert Sarver said at the time about offering a max contract, but with the final two years only partially guaranteed.
From Gentry's perspective however, leaving for New York was as much about Stoudemire wanting to prove he could be "the man" on his own team as anything.
"I think that was very much a part of it. There's nothing wrong with that. I don't see anything negative in that," Gentry said.
"He just felt like being here, it was going to be Steve's team, a lot, and I think he felt like he would like to have a team that was his, that he was the focal point, that it would basically be his team. I think going to New York, he saw an opportunity for that to be the case."
It should be a fun time at the US Airways Center on Friday when Amare makes his return. There's no reason to think that he won't be wildly cheered by the Phoenix crowd, although a recent comment from Amare reported in the New York media might dampen that a bit if it gets around.
"I don't think they got nobody on the team that can stop me and nobody can stop us as a team," Amare was quoted as saying.
Of course, Suns fans know he's right, so they aren't likely to hold it against him and probably won't boo even if he drops 50 points on his former team. That's completely possible considering the Suns will have to guard him with either Marcin Gorat or Channing Frye. Anyone who's seen Amare play knows how that will end.