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Setting Sun? (Excerpts)

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BY CHRIS MANNIX

With potential suitors wary of his salary demands, Phoenix is having trouble moving Amar'e Stoudemire.

It's like the Craigslist ad that you refresh twice to be sure it's not a put-on: Used All-Star center. Runs the floor like a gazelle, attacks the rim and knocks down the midrange j's. Equal value not required! As the Suns fade in the Western Conference race, the rest of the league is keenly aware that 6' 10" power forward Amar'e Stoudemire is on the market. While it seems like a no-brainer for Phoenix to swap Stoudemire—a potential free agent who has been dogged by questions about his attitude--the team is finding that offering a star at deep discount leads to one thing: a slew of unacceptable, almost insulting offers.

Stoudemire's contract is not the only concern for would-be suitors. "He's a handful," says a source familiar with the Suns. "Great talent, lot of baggage." Some Phoenix teammates privately wonder whether his commitment to winning (read: defense) will ever match his drive to fill a stat sheet. What's more, Stoudemire missed 29 games last season with a partially detached retina after sitting out all but three games in 2005-06 while recovering from microfracture surgery on his left knee.

"That's two serious injuries in five years," says an Eastern executive. "If you are a G.M., you have to consider that before you commit to him for the long term."

Add it all up and it equals a lukewarm market. While at least eight teams have expressed interest in Stoudemire (including Chicago, Cleveland, Golden State, New Jersey and Washington) none so far have offered anything to get Phoenix's attention.

The last-place Nets, however, should. Mikhail Prokhorov, the team's deep-pocketed new owner, wants to make a splash, and signing Stoudemire to an extension accomplishes that. Stoudemire's attitude is likely to improve in a new environment, and he could be a perfect complement to uptempo point guard Devin Harris
and low-post threat Brook Lopez.

The cost would be steep; any deal for Stoudemire is likely to include New Jersey's first-round pick, which would give them the best chance at the No. 1 choice. But cornerstone power forwards in the prime of their careers don't become available every day. With a top pick in their pocket the Suns would give their fans hope for the future. And Stoudemire, finally, could move on.