The Suns are just going to have to settle for keeping the NBA's 10th leading scorer, 11th leading shooter and 23rd leading rebounder.
Underwhelmed again by what was available for Amar'e Stoudemire on the trade scene, the Suns let the league trade deadline pass without making a move to deal him or anyone else from their 32-23 team that ranks seventh in the Western Conference.
"In the end, nothing really struck our fancy," Suns General Manager Steve Kerr said once the 1 p.m. trade deadline passed. "The other thing is we felt really strongly about this team and how well we've played this year. We're in position to be a playoff team. We owe it to our players to keep them together. We owe it to our fans to allow this team to see how successful it can become. In the end, frankly, it was a really easy decision."
The Suns were engaged in weeks of trade speculation surrounding Stoudemire for a third consecutive year at the trade deadline. There was also consideration about moving Jason Richardson and interest in Robin Lopez but Phoenix stood pat with a team that it believes will make the playoffs and avoid sending a lottery pick to Oklahoma City for the first-round pick the Suns owe the Thunder this year.
A Stoudemire trade had been explored in previous years with underwhelming offers but this year's perspective was different because Stoudemire has an early termination option in his contract to exercise by June 30. He can stay under contract for $17.8 million or become an unrestricted free agent, although the Suns do have rights to seek a sign-and-trade deal.
"The only reason we were going to entertain anything was because Amar'e has the opt-out at the end of the year," Kerr said. "So we are in a danger of possibly losing him and getting nothing in return. So that's our job to explore what's out there. I've mentioned that unless we could get something that improved our team and put us in a much better position moving forward, then we weren't going to do anything."
The closest the Suns came to trading Stoudemire was their talks with Cleveland, which broke off when J.J. Hickson was no longer going to be part of a package that also included a first-round pick, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Danny Green. A source said that the Suns were trying to arrange a three-way deal that then would have brought Utah star Carlos Boozer, on an expiring contract, to Phoenix in exchange for Ilgauskas.
That type of third-party wrinkle seemed to be what Kerr was referring to today when talking about how a Cleveland deal was never close.
"That one really never rang a bell for us," Kerr said. "It had to be a lot better than that. There had to be a spinoff. There had to be something because, again, I wasn't willing to sacrifice this season for something that would help us in the future that wouldn't make sense. That had a lot of different offshoots to it that were tricky and that didn't happen."
Kerr said the Suns would continue to look at a possible contract extension with Stoudemire, although the first option of a two-year extension worth almost $28 million total did not interest Stoudemire much.
Kerr acknowledged that a factor in staying with the current playoff-projected team was because the Suns don't own their first-round pick and would not want to pass on a lottery pick to Oklahoma City.
"You don't want to be exposed in that situation," Kerr said. "I think the biggest factor is last summer when we re-signed Steve Nash and Grant Hill, we were committed to raising our young players the right way with really good mentoring and leadership and still being good. Somebody said recently that 'We've been rebuilding but nobody knows it,' and I think that's a good way to put it."
Kerr planned on reaching out to Stoudemire but does not anticipate any problems moving forward with the relationship between the eighth-year Sun and his franchise, although Stoudemire recently had backed off his previous preference to stay in Phoenix.
"Amar'e couldn't have handled this any better," Kerr said. "I'm confident he'll be professional about his and play as hard as he can and play for himself and his teammates."