Amare Stoudemire’s right knee, the microfracture knee, the knee we all know would surely bring a premature end to one of the most exciting NBA talents in this millennium, is now waving a white flag.
It’s time for another surgery, time for another early end to a season, time for Stoudemire to seriously consider if continuing to ask his aching knees for any more is wise.
The New York Knicks knew they were rolling the dice in the summer of 2010 when they gave a player with a long medical chart a five-year, no-strings, max contract. For them, it was worth the risk: If he stays healthy, they have a superstar they had been missing. If he breaks down, everyone sees a little bump in their Cablevision bill and the Knicks move on to the next $100 million Hail Mary.
That was a risk the Phoenix Suns couldn’t take and now that Stoudemire is breaking down, owner Robert Sarver’s decision not to offer him a max contract has become the silver lining (re: positive spin) during a very dark time in the franchise’s history.
When it became obvious that the Suns weren’t going to get Stoudemire to stay for less than a max deal there were three options in the spring of 2009.
While Option C – let him walk – did the most for Sarver’s bank statement, maybe the one they chose might have done the most damage to the franchise.
Option A: Trade him in before 2010 for some pieces and begin the rebuild ing project. Yes, the Suns would have missed out a thrilling run to the Western Conference finals, one that left them what many feel was one rebound short of a trip to the NBA Finals.
But they would have received the first pieces of the rebuilding project and it would have yielded draft picks with fewer restrictions that those garnered in the 11th hour Steve Nash deal last summer.
Option B: Give Stoudemire his $100 million. The Suns would have returned intact for the 2010-11 season, when he was healthy and still unstoppable (25 points a game) and made another run. That was the year Dallas wheezed its way to Mark Cuban’s only championship. Not exactly stiff competition.
The Suns would have been at or near the luxury tax, but look at the has-beens and never-weres Phoenix has thrown money at since then – Robin Lopez, Hakim Warrick, Josh Childress, Michael Beasley – OK, I’ll stop. But add up those salaries and see how close you get to same number?
Option C: So other than being able to say “See I told you so ...” what did letting Stoudemire walk accomplish? A final four team was disbanded right after a great run. Nothing, not one single asset was acquired. And flush with cash, Suns management went bottom-feeding in the land of misfit NBA toys and came up, for the most part, empty.
There are no winners here, unless Stoudemire limps through the next two years and collects all his money. But the Knicks, who have a huge green eraser to handle unsightly tasks such as this, will survive.
The Suns? We’ll see.
Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.