Amar’e Stoudemire is leaving the Phoenix Suns.
The Suns have agreed to sign Hakim Warrick to a four-year, $18 million deal. Seeing how Warrick plays Amar’e’s position, and given the financial burden of signing him and retaining Channing Frye with a five-year, $30 million deal, Amar’e is pretty much out. As of Friday, July 2, it seems as if he will be going to the New York Knicks with a shiny new five-year, near-$100 million contract. However, given the nature of these things, that is hardly set in stone. Amar’e could still end up in Miami, Chicago, New Jersey or some weird sign-and-trade destination (Houston and Cleveland have reportedly shown interest). Anywhere but Phoenix, really. Maybe even the moon.
But honestly, I don’t care about that.
I don’t care about 27-year-old power forwards who spend 8 years with one franchise, see that franchise stick by them through one of the most daunting operations in all of sports (microfracture surgery) and another, bizarre injury that leads to them playing with goggles (goggles!), see that franchise give them the best teammate humanely possible and the best possible playing style (excluding that awful Terry Porter stint), allow that teammate and that style to mold them into one of the best big men in this game, and then bolt because their pride was hurt when they were only offered $96 million to play basketball for the next five years. Those insolent, Phoenix McScrooges. How dare they.
To be fair, though, I also don’t care for the Suns in this saga. I can’t condone a franchise who dangles a young man back and forth for years, almost trading him for everything from Kevin Garnett to Al Jefferson to J.J. Hickson, repeatedly throwing him under the bus while still holding on with one arm, and reminding him that every dollar he gets is another dollar they refuse to use to enhance the supporting cast around him and the aforementioned teammate.
No, I don’t care for either side here. Both of them are right so little and wrong so often, that the antagonism flows like money to an unproven power forward in the summer. What I care for is the short, floppy haired, Canadian two-time MVP, who — at age 36, with no ring to his name or in his near future — is once again forced to make something out of nothing.
The greatest movie of all time starts with the immortal Scar saying “life’s not fair.” Well, sports are rarely fair either. If they were, we wouldn’t be talking about money and championships, because every single player in the league would finish every single season with a participation trophy, a popsicle, and a pat on the back. But sometimes, the best guys are thrust into the worst circumstances, and we are left with no alternative to sulking in the corner and complaining.
And you know what the worst thing about this is? That while you, me, every Suns fan, every Steve Nash fan and every proponent of justice will do just that, the only one who will refuse to sulk in the corner and complain is Steve Nash himself. If anything, Steve will look even happier, express his gratitude towards Amar’e for 6 years of fruitless cooperation, and say he’s looking forward to playing with Hakim Warrick.
And he’ll mean it. He loves the game, loves his teammates that much. Heck, he could actually pull off this Hakim Warrick crap. If Warrick averages 25 points and 12 rebounds a game next season, while suddenly shooting 62% from three-point range, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised. That’s what Steve Nash does. He makes his teammates happy, turns rosters from barren fields into booming, blossoming crops of talent.
However, it’s just not enough. Because to win titles, you need more than a magician. You need those lucky breaks that Steve never had, for whatever reason. It’s fun to say that the true greats always get those breaks, always get the right teammates, always luck into walking on the golden path instead of falling into the insurmountable abyss. If you decorate your statements with enough exclamation marks and capital letters and words like “FACT” or “PERIOD,” people might even buy it. But the truth is that sometimes luck is just that: luck. A statistical fluke. A coin that lands on the same side five times in a row, only to land on tails when you finally call heads.
Well, Steve just lost the coin toss. Again. The fluke to end all flukes. For the fourth time, an All-Star teammate has walked out on his team because … well … um … I have no idea. Just think about that. How many players even get to play with four All-Stars in their lifetime? Well, Steve fell on the four whose priorities have “I have no idea what I’m thinking” over winning, over playing with the best teammate of our generation. This comes after a run in which his team has sold multiple draft picks/productive role players for nothing, let go of a revolutionary coach in Mike D’Antoni (although we’re still not sure if that was to the detriment of the team or not, given how good Alvin Gentry has been at the helm), and has been knocked out of the Playoffs by Joe Johnson breaking his face, Amar’e’s microfracture surgery, two suspensions, a Tim Duncan three-pointer and a Ron Artest putback off a Kobe Bryant airball. Not to mention the multiple gashed/broken/severely deformed noses, the hip-check-into-the-scorer’s-table, and the black-eye-swollen-shut that he suffered while trying to win anyway.
Steve Nash. Where lightning strikes again and again and again and again.
So yes, Amar’e is leaving. The longtime co-pilot has followed the path of many a former wingman, seeking greener pastures but — if history holds — on the verge of failing miserably. The only current Phoenix Sun who was on the squad when the Dallas Mavericks let Nash go is Leandro Barbosa, whose best years seem behind him (I use the word “seem” because I like Leandro and hope that his diminished form truly is the result of ankle injuries that are now in the past).
But even though the biggest constant of Nash’s second Phoenix Suns stint is now gone — and at 6’10”, 249 pounds, Amar’e is a pretty big constant — things are still the same. The Suns will play the happiest basketball in the league, everybody will be shocked at how good their seemingly average role players are, Hakim Warrick will get several most improved player votes, and the Suns will walk into the playoffs with an abundance of “IS THIS THE YEAR?!” stories, before suffering a heartbreaking loss. And they will lose. You know it, I know it, they know it. Hakim Warrick is just as capable of losing track defensively of Pau Gasol as Amar’e was, just as capable of missing huge rebounds and going 7 for 20 in the deciding game of the Conference Finals. And next summer, they will lose another key contributor (Grant Hill to retirement? Jason Richardson to free agency?) and we will be in the exact same spot.
Steve Nash will still be smiling in the US Airways Center, whether it’s after a marvelous pass to a cutting Robin Lopez or lying on his back on the sidelines, rooting for that plucky bench unit. He will continue to do things we never thought possible, playing basketball at the highest level into his late 30s, making nifty layups over the tallest athletes in the world, prompting millions of “OMG I LOVE STEVE NASH HE’S THE BOMBZ!!!!111” articles and tweets by the hour.
And he’ll do it without winning his ring.
No, this is not the end of the Amar’e era. It’s the continuation of the Steve Nash era. An era responsible for some of the funnest basketball in all time — and for the six-year lump in my throat.