Jan 7, 2011, 11:33 AM EDT
The fans in Phoenix appreciated Amar’e Stoudemire.
They would chant “M-V-P” him (of course, fans seem to chant that for everyone now). He was part the most deadly pick-and-roll combination in the league and was at the heart of a team that had just advanced to the Western Conference finals in front of raucous crowds. He had grown up as a player in the Valley of the Sun. He was loved and appreciated for that.
But in the NBA, feeling appreciated comes down to getting paid.
Last summer Suns owner Robert Sarver offered Stoudemire a five-year, $99.6 million contract — but only $56 million was guaranteed. Sarver had concerns about Stoudemire’s surgically repaired knee and eye.
The Knicks had no such reservations (that and they were desperate, needing a star who they could sell to fans and who could lead the team). They offered the $99.6 million fully guaranteed, and Stoudemire took it.
Stoudemire returns to Phoenix Friday night and said the contract situation left a bad taste in his mouth, Paul Coro reports in the Arizona Republic.
“If they were looking to rebuild and thought I was the guy they wanted to rebuild with, then we could’ve came to an understanding,” Stoudemire said. “But apparently it wasn’t that way. It felt like I wasn’t wanted. It felt like I wasn’t appreciated. I felt like my play on the court was overlooked.
“If you have the best training staff and brag about the situation, my knees really weren’t much of a concern. It was something that didn’t make him (Managing Partner Robert Sarver) comfortable and he made a decision. I don’t want to get involved in an amount-of-minutes situation because it becomes a control issue. You want to be able to play free.”
This season Stoudemire has played his way into MVP consideration, something he never would have gotten in Phoenix because too many writers thought it was Steve Nash just making him look good. Turns out, Stoudemire can make himself look pretty good.
Some fans will boo Stoudemire tonight in his return. But when you are talking about $40 million in guaranteed money — plus the other perks that come with winning in New York — it’s kind of hard to blame the guy. Plus, there’s that whole feeling appreciated thing.