Half the NBA is going West for All-Star weekend. The Suns are looking East when it comes to trading Amare Stoudemire.
Talks between the Suns and Portland Trail Blazers about Stoudemire have unraveled, CBSSports.com has learned. Phoenix is now focused on Eastern Conference teams -- and not just Chicago.
The Bulls remain a serious contender due to Drew Gooden's expiring contract and Larry Hughes' expiring deal next season, plus the largest expiring trade exception in the league ($5.2 million). But Miami is the latest team to emerge as a serious landing spot for Stoudemire, a person with direct knowledge of the talks said Wednesday night.
The Heat's involvement is sure to set off speculation about the possibility of Phoenix taking back Shawn Marion, who was traded to Miami for Shaquille O'Neal last February -- ground zero in the demolition of the Suns' 58-win-a-year success story over the past four seasons. But it is not believed that Suns managing partner Robert Sarver wants to go there. And Sarver's heavy hand in the process has become one of the key obstacles to Phoenix securing the best deal, according to two league executives -- one of whom described the situation as "dissension." Teams are getting mixed signals from Phoenix as far as what the Suns are looking to take back for Stoudemire, another executive said -- one version from Sarver and another from president Steve Kerr.
That isn't uncommon in NBA trade talks, especially on a deal as massive as this one. But it's just another impediment in Kerr's way as he tries to leverage an already difficult position. Some team executives have concerns about Stoudemire as a max player, given that anyone who acquires him would have to be prepared to re-sign him if he declines his player option after the 2009-10 season. Stoudemire's defensive deficiencies have been well documented, and he's a difficult player to commit to long-term given that he underwent microfracture knee surgery in 2005.
The deal Portland was discussing with Phoenix involved LaMarcus Aldridge, Jerryd Bayless, and Raef LaFrentz's $12.7 million expiring contract. "That deal is dead," the person familiar with the talks said. One reason could be that Portland is really looking to acquire an elite point guard, according to an NBA team executive. That begs the question of whether Portland G.M. Kevin Pritchard was asking for Steve Nash. But according to another rival executive, the Suns have made it clear that Nash, Grant Hill, and Leandro Barbosa are "untouchable."