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Suns could trade Stoudemire

The Arizona Republic
The Bounce


The Arizona Republic

PHOENIX – A year ago Friday, Shaquille O’Neal joined the Suns in what General Manager and ex-Arizona Wildcat Steve Kerr called “a gamble worth taking.”

O’Neal announced the start of The AmarĂ© Stoudemire Project, his plan to turn Stoudemire into the NBA’s best power forward.

That team was atop the West but sought a change that would push it into more playoff success. The Suns now are clinging to a playoff position after a 4-8 stretch that has the brass more willing to gamble again with a Stoudemire deal before the Feb. 19 trading deadline.

The Suns have lost to Golden State, Chicago, Charlotte, New York, Minnesota and Indiana – all losing teams – in the past month and may be willing to lose Stoudemire in the right deal. As an All-Star starter and former All-NBA first-teamer, he carries value elsewhere while the appreciation for him locally is declining.

Wednesday night was another example of frustrations with Stoudemire. A 7-0 Suns run in the third quarter cut Golden State’s lead to 11 before coach Terry Porter reinserted Stoudemire. In 2:26, the Suns defense caved and the deficit returned to 21.

“AmarĂ© struggled, at times, to get into the flow,” Porter said after the Suns were outscored by 21 in Stoudemire’s 28 minutes.

If the Stoudemire project is ended, there are several trade scenarios with a need for the returning salaries to be within a 25 percent difference of Stoudemire’s $15.1 million salary.

The Suns would want to inject youth (players and draft picks) into an aging roster, especially if they send off their youngest starter. The Suns also will aim for 2009-2010 luxury-tax relief by acquiring an expiring contract.

That puts these teams and players as potential pieces:

Chicago: Drew Gooden ($7.1 million).

Detroit: Rasheed Wallace ($13.7 million).

Memphis: Antoine Walker ($8.9 million).

Portland: Raef LaFrentz ($12.7 million), whose remaining salary is 80 percent covered by injury insurance.

Sacramento: Bobby Jackson ($6.1 million).

When asked earlier this week if he has worried about being traded, Stoudemire said:

“The few things that never bother me is I’m never afraid and I never worry.”

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