PHOENIX - JANUARY 07: Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball under pressure from Amar'e Stoudemire #1 of the New York Knicks during the NBA game at US Airways Center on January 7 2011 in Phoenix Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
2 Total Updates since January 6, 2011
over 2 years ago Update 0 comments
The Phoenix Suns are an incredibly bad basketball team right now. To make matters worse, they started the game with the 11th different lineup this season. The unit that started looked like they'd never played together, which is understandable since they hadn't.
Suns Coach Alvin Gentry seemed to be trying to match the small Knicks lineup, but in the process outsmarted himself into a seven-point deficit within the first four minutes of the game. The Knicks never looked back and the Suns never looked like they had a chance.
"We just thought that was the best lineup to stick out there to try and match up with them so we don't have a seven-foot guy running around trying to chase a 6-5 guy," Alvin Gentry said when asked about his unusual lineup decision, including several late changes.
Josh Childress said he was told he would be starting just 10 minutes before the game.
In his triumphant return to Phoenix, Amare Stoudemire finished with 23 points and nine rebounds, but only played 31 minutes in the blowout. Raymond Felton added his own triple-double, with 21 points to go along with 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
"I had one objective and that was to dominate from the start," Stoudemire said after the game.
"That was my main goal was to dominate from the get go. I got it going early then in the second half, they went to a zone and my teammates got it going."
Vince Carter led the Suns with 19 points, followed by Steve Nash, who had 14 points and nine assists.
Through three quarters, while the game was still technically being contested, the Knicks went 15-28 from three-point range while the Suns were 5-18. Perhaps the most disappointing statistic for the Suns was being out-rebounded 59-34 for the game.
The Suns cancelled a scheduled practice for Saturday and will play again on Sunday at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
over 2 years ago Update 2 comments
This is no ordinary game between a 14-19 team (Phoenix Suns) and a 20-14 team (New York Knicks). This game is a lens through which we can reflect back on some good times in Phoenix when Amare Stoudemire and Mike D'Antoni weren't in the visitor's locker room. It's natural of course, that those peeks to the past are colored with memories of the good times and somehow filter out all the negative.
Absolutely, fans should cheer for Amare and applaud Stat for all the great things he did in a Suns uniform and for the great player and person that he is. But let's not forget that Stoudemire and D'Antoni both had their issues while they were here and those issues weren't just about their failings. The Suns organization, and in many ways just the circumstances, didn't always do right by those guys.
The greatest example of that is Amare's development as a leader since leaving the shadow of Steve Nash. This was never going to be his team and the Suns were always going to pick Steve over Stoudemire. We can't blame them for that, but from Amare's standpoint, at 28 years old, he needed to spread his wings and there's no blaming him for that either.
Listen to what Knicks rookie Landry Fields had to say about Amare and imagine a Suns player ever saying that about Sun Tzu.
"He's a great leader. He really leads by example. I learn a lot from him, not just on the court but off the court how to deal with external stuff. He's been a great impact on me," Fields said.
Coach D'Antoni said basically the same thing, "On and off the court he's been the best leader and the best player you can ask for. He's kind of taken New York by storm."
These are not things that were said about Amare when he was in Phoenix and if he had stayed here they still likely wouldn't be. Here he carried the baggage of his youthful immaturity and would always be constantly compared to Steve Nash and Grant Hill. In New York, Amare's been able to grow and develop as a person. Good for him.
As for the game itself, it's almost an afterthought and that's not just for the fans and media. This is a big, emotional game for Amare and according to his coach he's going to have something to prove.
"He's looked forward to it. It will be fun for him," D'Antoni said.
The Suns will do their best to slow Amare but as we've seen over the years, if he's in that zone there is no stopping him and Amare is not the kind of player who fails to play well in big situations. He has flaws in his game that we all probably focused on too much while he was here, but one thing Amare never did was shrink when the lights got bright.
Amare's thoughts on coming back as a Knick?
"It's a different feeling, it really is. The great part is the love is still there. It's beautiful. Phoenix will always be my home. No question about it."
The game tips off at 8:30 p.m. local time and will be broadcast on ESPN and Fox Sports Arizona. Fans can follow along with other Suns fans on the live game thread at Bright Side of the Sun.
over 2 years ago Update 0 comments
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.