Obviously, every imbecile out there (including, of course, yours truly) thinks he or she knows what the Suns oughta do about Amar’e Stoudemire. Sign him or let him walk? Give him the big bucks or try to replace him? It seems to me that all the opinionizers out there make their arguments based on at least one, and possibly all four, of the following “question areas”: Head/Heart, Health, Production, and Overall Value. Let’s take ‘em in order, shall we?
- I put this one first because, for me, it’s the easiest question of all: What’s the question? Since the day Amar’e got drafted by the Suns, “people” have wondered about his drive, his dedication, his will to succeed. “People” wonder about his “character” based on his mother’s extensive, well-documented legal problems (there’s a pretty good piece on the issue here if you’re interested). But here’s the thing: has Amar’e had a lot of legal problems? No. DUIs? No. Gettin’ in fights up in da club? No sir. So what people are afraid of is the apparently never-ending possibility that Amar’e will wake up one day and be his mother. And that’s some bullshit right there. Amar’e ain’t trying to shake his shady past and youthful mistakes…because that’s baggage he doesn’t carry. But he will apparently forever need to try to shake his mom’s shady past. Amar’e has never been anything but dedicated to the Phoenix Suns and to the Phoenix community. For me, there’s no question. Amar’e's not one of those head cases who people keep hoping will get it together because maybejustmaybe he’ll be able to put his enormous talent to good use. He’s a put-together dude who has shown nothing but love to PHX since the day he came to town.
- I think there’s probably a legitimate question here (and I’m not talking about the eye; that was a freak occurrence which has been dealt with and has not impeded him one bit), just because of the history of NBA players who have microfracture surgery. They tend to lose explosiveness, and the surgery tends to be the beginning of the end. However, that isn’t the case as much as it used to be; while Chris Webber and Allan Houston were pretty much done after the surgery, Amar’e (along with other players like multiple-microfracture pioneer Kenyon Martin) have regained much (if not all) of their explosiveness post-surgery. Amar’e's thunderous dunks made many highlight reels (and shamed the houses of many posterees) this season. I think it would be fair to say that Amar’e's explosiveness is still there. The man is only 27, and because of time missed with injuries, he’s only played 516 games so far in his career. And while it’s impossible for me to know the real dirt on his medical status, he certainly seems healthy–and the Suns’ crack training staff is known as one of the very best. If anybody can keep the man on his feet, it’s them.
- STAT had an excellent all-around season this year, especially considering how slowly he started and how it took him about half the season to really round into game shape after missing so much training time last summer (he had to spend the majority of several weeks lying down while recovering from his eye surgery). He finished the regular season with 36-minute averages of 24 and 9 on .557 shooting. That’s pretty damn good. Would I like to see a couple more rebounds per? Why yes, I would like to see a couple more rebounds per. But again…I think that will come with a totally-in-shape-and-ready-to-start-the-season Amar’e. He’s a big-time producer.
- How many columns were printed this year about how special and unique this Suns team was; the way they worked together both on and off the court and what a family they were? Seven or eight thousand? Yeah, that sounds about right. This team, with Amar’e, was a helluva lot of fun to watch. It was cool to see a team really enjoy each other that way. Do I place that above winning? Hell no. But it’s not all that far off. STAT was a big part of that, and I think a big piece of that goes away if he walks. So in terms of Overall Value, considering production and everything else, I think I’d have to say that Amar’e is pretty damn valuable to the Suns.
So what’s the answer? When I really think about it, I think that Amar’e is, at this point in time and for the forseeable future, irreplaceable. He works well with Nash. The Suns have the kind of squad that can play help defense and cover some of Amar’e's shortcomings (and if you’re going to tell me a guy with “shortcomings” isn’t a max player, I’m here to tell you that every NBA player has shortcomings, even the max guys. Get over it), and he’s a dominant offensive player. I know it ain’t my money, but I think you’ve gotta…
SIGN the man.