Phoenix Suns Should Let Amar'e Stoudemire Go, and Go After a Big-Name Free Agent (Like Dirk Nowitzki)

It's over, and nobody wants a reccap of the Suns' 111-103 elimination loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals Saturday night.

But since we've reported every Suns game this season, we feel duty-bound to pontificate about this incredible season -- which went from a good start to a terrible middle to a great finish -- and give the Suns a little advice.

The Purple & Orange were so close that fans could taste it. Arguably, the idiot Ron Artest beat the Suns in those last two close contests, with his game-winning basket in game five and an improbable 25-point performance Saturday.

And, of course, they were beaten by Kobe Bryant, the best player in the NBA who will, no doubt in our mind, again will his team to victory against the Boston Celtics in the league championship.

Suns Coach Alvin Gentry has repeatedly said since Saturday that he'd like the whole 2009-10 team back. General Manager Steve Kerr has said pretty much the same thing. Owner Robert Sarver hasn't said anything.

And he's the guy who could decide to pay Amar'e Stoudemire that maximum contract he seeks. Or refuse to pay him anymore than his guaranteed $17.7 million for next season and watch him head out of town.  

For our part, we hope the Suns let Amar'e go.


If they give him maximum money, they would be handuffed financially for the remainder of Steve Nash's career -- and we do want to see Nash in an NBA Finals before it's all over for him.

Also, there are some big-name free agents out there whom the Suns might grab, foremost among them Nash's old pal Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks. In our book, the 7-foot Nowitzki (who's averaged 23 points and seven rebounds in his career) would be a step up from the 6-10 Stoudemire (21 points and eight rebounds) and would come cheaper. He might dearly love playing with his pal again, plus being the missing piece of a Suns championship puzzle.

A slightly better defender than Amar'e, Nowitzki, almost 32, is older than Stoudemire by 4 1/2 years, but he hasn't had the crushing injuries that Amare's endured and may have just as much playing time left.

Another good fit for the Suns would be the Toronto Raptors' Chris Bosh, 26. With all that money Sarver would be saving by not resigning Stoudemire, he could afford to bring in either Nowitzski or the 6-10 Bosch (who's averaged 20 points and 9 rebounds).

Nowitzki makes $19.8 million a year, but maybe he'd take less if he thought he could find that elusive chamionship on the same team with best-friend Nash. Bosh makes $15.8 million and might not cost much more than Stoudemire is guaranteed next season. 

Around the All-Star break, when the Suns were toying with moving Stoudemire, there was talk of a trade involving Utah that would move Carlos Boozer to the Suns, and Boozer would be a huge defensive improvement over Amar'e.

But a Stoudemire trade is pretty much out now, because Amar'e, an unrestrictred free agent, can go to the highest bidder, if it's money that motivates him, and we believe it is. Forget all the talk about chemistry, Stoudemire won't stay uniess Sarver ponies up.

And why should he, when Stoudemire wasn't a maximum-dough player in the last two games against the Lakers? He looked pretty much like he did earlier in the season, when he was on the block. He had 27 points in game six, but only four rebounds.

The kind of guy you want to give a maximum contract to is a stone-cold killer like Kobe Bryant. Stoudemire was handled by the Lakers in the final two games, but nobody could handle Bryant. He made impossible shots and willed his team to victory in the last minutes of Saturday's game, especially.

Channing Frye wants more money, too, as does Lou Amundson. We'd say, give them raises and keep them around.

Frye, when he's hitting, gives the team the spacing it needs, pulling big men away from the paint to guard his long-range shooting. That gave the Suns an advantage against Lamar Odom in the Suns' game-four victory.

Amundson is the best rebounder on the team and a scrappy defensive player, but we'll be surprised if he's back. The Suns have big plans for last year's first-round draft pick Earl Clark, and if he becomes the player that Goran Dragic and Robin Lopez became in their second NBA seasons, he can replace Amundson in the rotation.

The only guy on the team we'd shop around is Leandro Barbosa. The thought has crossed our minds that the only reason Barbosa's still on the team is that he's Nash's buddy. The Suns definitely don't need him, with the way Dragic played this season, and Phoenix could get a quality player in return for LB, or they could put his salary toward a quality big man to replace Stoudemire.

Barbosa looked promising a few seasons ago, but injuries have hampered him, and he remains an often out-of-control player who causes as many problems as he solves. How many times have we seen him blast through traffic all the way to the basket and fail to finish a layup? Or attempt a three-pointer from way too far back early in the shot-clock?

If Kerr and Sarver make some shrewd moves in the off-season, we could see the Suns challenging the Lakers for the Western Conference championship again next season -- with a different result. We woiuld really like our chances with Nowitzki or Bosh in the starting lineup


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Rick Barrs
Contact: Rick Barrs