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Suns plan to rebuild in 2010-11 with costly players off books

PHOENIX – Barring some offseason blockbuster trade, the Phoenix Suns will be saddled with the hefty contracts of Shaquille O’Neal and Amaré Stoudemire next season.

That has the Suns looking ahead to the 2010-11 season, when O’Neal’s deal and probably Stoudemire’s, too, go off the books, leaving the team with the resources to be a major player in free agency.

“We’re in a position where a year from now we can say ‘All right, we’ve got options now,’ ” general manager and ex-Arizona Wildcat Steve Kerr said Tuesday.

Kerr spoke at a news conference with Alvin Gentry, who had the interim removed from his title and has a two-year contract – with a team option for a third – as Phoenix coach. The Suns had announced the new deal with Gentry on Saturday.

Kerr indicated the team would consider the possibility of a trade but there is no rush to make a deal.

“This summer we look at everything that’s out there and if we have to just grind our way through this year, we’ll do so,” he said, “but if there’s a move that makes sense, we’ll take a look at that as well.”

Finding a team willing to take the 37-year-old O’Neal and the $20 million he has left in the final year of his contract might be difficult, no matter that he’s coming off a strong season.

Stoudemire, meanwhile, is set to make $16.3 million next season. He has an option for 2010-11 at $17 million but is widely expected to opt out of it in search of an even richer deal.

The Suns flirted with trading Stoudemire at the All-Star break but owner Robert Sarver decided against it. Instead, coach Terry Porter was fired and replaced by his lead assistant Gentry. Gentry returned the Suns to the freewheeling style of former coach Mike D’Antoni and expected Stoudemire to be the centerpiece of the offense.

But two games into Gentry’s tenure, Stoudemire underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn retina in his right eye. That makes him damaged goods on the summer market.

Stoudemire still has not been able to run, Kerr said.

Kerr said he expected Stoudemire to be ready for the start of training camp this fall.

Gentry was 18-13 after taking over the Suns, even though he had to do without Stoudemire for all but two games and was without Steve Nash and/or Leandro Barbosa for shorter stints. Phoenix won 46 games but still missed the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

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