The Phoenix Suns are like a once-proud family suddenly torn apart by ambition and desire charged by the hope of that ever-so tantalizing promise of greatness that stems from those who vow to win at any and all cost.
The New York Knicks, on the other hand, a recently-dire, desperate franchise now the poster-child for retribution; their seemingly overnight rise from the ashes has captivated NBA fans everywhere and finally breathed new life back into Madison Square Garden, the most famous basketball venue in the World.
To say things have turned completely upside down for both revered and recognizable franchises from last season to now would be an embarrassing understatement.
Amar’e Stoudemire, the confident brash younger son wise and skilled beyond his years, now a product of a regime worthy of his unavoidable appeal, a sure and haunting reminder of the Suns’ impressive glory days has taken his dunks and deft mid-range jumper to the East Coast.
Now standing tall and talented on the other side in a fresh blue Knick uniform his eerie presence in US Airways Center Friday night will hopefully be met with appreciation and respect, however that same presence stands to make way throughout the contest for a judgmental undertone that at face value mocks Suns’ management and their practical desire to go at it without their once-captivating star if the Suns are to lose this highly anticipated matchup.
Stat (Standing Tall and Talented), better known as Amar’e Stoudemire, chose the security and limelight of the Big Apple via free agency this past summer, and after the early results who could honestly blame the guy?
Yes. Amar’e got his money and he got his years. He also got the opportunity to be “the guy” in New York.
Amar’e always wanted to prove he could be the center of a franchise and, ultimately, do that without Nash. Becoming one of the first big name free agents to ink a max deal in the over-hyped and analyzed summer of 2010, Stoudemire got the fully guaranteed $100M contract he coveted and the unique opportunity to prove without a doubt his repeated claim as worthy lead man status.
Maybe even Amar’e was a little surprised with the expediency, amount, and years included in the deal.
The Knicks knowing they had lost out on not only Joe Johnson – who signed back with the Hawks, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade – who now form the SuperHeat down in Miami, had to ensure they nabbed at least one big name to ensure relevancy and dignity in that landmark free agency frenzy.
Whether or not Stoudemire (26.4 ppg, 9 rbg) was the Knicks’ last resort or their primary target in free agency, he is making good on every promise thus far this season and has his Knickerbockers now sitting at an extremely impressive 20-14 (second in the Atlantic Division) heading into this highly cringed matchup with the Suns, the team that made him a star, on Friday night with much more to play for than just a regular season victory.
Whether Stat’s feelings of discontent and under-appreciation while with the Suns merit significant consideration is a whole other story upon itself, however he remains slighted in some way and that fact alone makes for quite the fan spectacle in Phoenix Friday night.
Unfortunately for those strangely unrecognizable Suns – a club that now includes Vince Carter – this is probably not the best of times to greet a motivated, said underappreciated old friend.
The Suns don’t look like themselves these days because, well…they aren’t themselves.
They recently traded away their leading scorer in Jason Richardson, the suddenly rejuvenated Hedo Turkoglu, and their seldom-used former first-round draft pick in Earl Clark to Orlando for the aforementioned Carter, Polish center Marcin Gortat and swingman Michael Pietrus.
All of this movement on top of the obvious fact that there is a serious omission of frontcourt production since Amar’e has moved on points to an un-Suns like 14-19 overall record currently putting them 3 ½ games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
For a team that valiantly marshaled into the Western Conference Finals last year pushing the World Champion Lakers to six games, the Suns have to feel as if things couldn’t have gotten any worse.
Unfortunately, things may have to get even worse in Phoenix for them to get better.
The issue coming into the season was is it possible for a club that loses a key cog like Stoudemire from their starting lineup to remain competitive or is it time to rebuild?
Ironically, that question at this point in the season is blatantly being answered with every deafening blow dealt by the opposition.
The Suns record after 33 games should be an obvious admission of a need to rebuild, however their unimpressive defensive numbers provide statistical merit to that claim.
Coming into tonight, Phoenix stands at 29th overall in rebounds per game averaging just 38.5 and also ranks 29th in points allowed giving up an amazing 108.2 points per contest. So, basically, any team that looks at the schedule and sees Phoenix knows that they will be able to score and rebound at will.
Even worse, their competition this Friday night, the New York Knicks, confidently charge into the game ranked number one in the league in points scored putting up 107.8 points per contest.
However it is important to note that the Knicks can’t exactly stop anybody either.
As a unit, New York gives up 106.5 points per game ranking them 28th in our beloved NBA in that very telling statistical category.
To the Suns’ credit they have held their last three opponents under 100 points per game giving up just 99 to the World Champs Wednesday night, but in locking teams up they seem to have had trouble finding a consistent offensive rhythm attempting to integrate their new guys and in turn have dropped six out of their first eight games since the trade.
Good luck against those swishing and dishing Knicks, right?
After two tough losses against Eastern Conference powerhouses the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat, Amar’e and friends fought back with a couple nice home victories over the Pacers and up-start Spurs.
They dropped a 128-spot on San Antonio shooting 55-percent as a team while running those 29-and-5 Spurs right out of Madison Square Garden.
But with all that being said, tonight is not about the Knicks and Amar’e Stoudemire, the former Sun and powerful man-child the team turned into a leader. His resounding claim as a number one option has been met with much warranted acknowledgment in New York and around the league.
Tonight is about the Suns and their future – something they have failed to honestly address since Amar’e moved on.
The outcome of tonight’s game should go a long way in determining the true course this Suns’ team, as it is currently constructed, is on.
With Steve Nash (16.9 ppg, 10.5 apg), although still as productive as ever, aging, Suns’ management has to realistically look at what they are trying to do and realize that it may be time to move the two-time MVP for his sake and theirs. His trade value may never be higher than now.
The same could be said for veteran Grant Hill.
Either way, if the Suns continue to slide things could get much worse for this once-exciting franchise before they get any better.
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© 2010 Jarrod Gillis — All Rights Reserved