Amar'e Stoudemire's practically got his bags packed. And the rest of the Phoenix Suns -- save for vererans Shaquille O'Neal, Steve Nash, and Grant Hill -- had seemingly put up the white flag. Then...
The Suns started looking like a playoff team again in the past two games against the Golden State Warriors and the Detroit Pistons.
It wasn't pretty in the first of two games with the 16-35 Warriors. The Suns were blown out in Oakland. But they came back Friday night to beat Golden State 115-105 at US Airways Cener, thanks to a great performance by Hill.
Playing out of his mind for a 37-year-old, Hill had 27 points and showed off his stellar defense. Stoudemire, apparently feeling the criticism he's received for playing on only one end of the floor over the past several games, had 19 points and 15 rebounds.
Jason Richardson put in 23 points, and Steve Nash had 19 points and 8 assists, giving the Suns a much-needed split with the Warriors, who run the same fast-paced offense that the Suns used to fancy when Coach Mike D'Antoni was around. The game proved that the Suns still have speed in them, even though they now feature the low-post coponent of O'Neal.
But they won Friday night's game in the paint, where they had 72 points. It was a similar situation against the Detroit Pistons Sunday night, when they had 66 points down low to go along with 31 fast-break points en route to a 107-97 victory.
It was all because of Nash, who beamed laser passes to teammates throughout the game in Auburn Hills, Michigan, winding up with 21 assists and 15 points. He helped O'Neal put in 20 ponts and Stoudemire score 18.
Despite a solid defensive effort, led again by HIll, the Suns were edged out in rebounding, 45-41, probably because Stoudemire was lackluster on the boards against Detroit with just 7 grabs. Shaq had a respectable 10 rebounds.
The trade rumors regarding Stoudemire haven't stopped since last week, when he met with Suns General Manager Steve Kerr and came out saying he'd like to stay but that the Suns may be of a mind to trade him for business reasons.
If the Suns do get rid of the man who calls himself STAT (Standing Tall and Talented), it will be for more than business reasons. It will be because he's not consistently living up to his nickname. Though he's the starting power forward for the Western Conference All-Stars in the game here Sunday, February 15, he's failed to prove that he's the go-to guy in Coach Terry Porter's slowed-down offense.
There are those who'd argue that this is more Porter's fault than Stoudemire's, but we're not among them. It may be time for another team to see if they can get the hard-headed Stoudemire to stop preening like the super star he isn't and start exerting some effort on D. If indeed he's even capable of such.
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One of those mentioned in a would-be trade for Stoudemire is Detroit center-forward Rasheed Wallace, who had his usual solid game Sunday night, 16 points and 15 rebounds. Unlike Stoudemire, Wallace is a defensive-minded player. But like Stoudemire, Sheed tends to get ticked off and pick up stupid technical fouls. In fact, his on-court bad temper's legendary.
Allen Iverson had 25 points and Richard Hamilton had 27 for the Pistons.
Richardson, who seems to be finally getting it together since his trade from Charlotte, had his third solid game in a row, with 21 points against the 27-22 Pistons. He had bus-loads of friends and family from his home town of Saginaw on hand to watch him play. Richardson scored 25 in the Warriors game Friday night.
Next up: the 76ers on the road today in Philadelphia. The 28-21 Suns should be able to handle the 25-24 Sixers. But they should've been able to handle a lot of much worse teams this season, only to come up short or get run out of the gym.