The Amare Stoudemire watch picked up on Saturday and it probably won't fade until the Phoenix Suns all-star power forward is sent elsewhere or the NBA trade deadline expires on Feb. 19.
ESPN.com suggested that the Bulls and Heat are showing the most interest in Stoudemire, which is easy to believe.
One theory has Miami offering Shawn Marion and Michael Beasley, which sounds like it might be a winner. If, that is, Heat president Pat Riley is willing.
By accepting Marion back (he was traded for Shaquille O'Neal a year ago), the Suns would get a $17 million expiring contract. They'd also get some real star potential in Beasley.
Phoenix would have to throw in a couple players to make the salaries match. Matt Barnes and Alando Tucker should work.
That proposed trade evokes memories of the Kevin Garnett saga. Minnesota might have been able to acquire a better group of players, but they did end up with a pretty good young talent in Al Jefferson (at least offensively).
Any Bulls offer figures to be centered around Tyrus Thomas, along with the expiring contracts of Drew Gooden and Cedric Simmons, which total about $8.8 million. Whether the Bulls would add Thabo Sefolosha, Andres Nocioni, Joakim Noah or draft picks to the mix is negotiable.
Thomas just produced the best six-game stretch of his pro career, averaging 15.3 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2 blocks. He actually scored 15 points in the last eight minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime in Saturday's 115-114 loss at Dallas.
Maybe this is a good time to trade Thomas, because his value is rising. Or maybe it's a sign the Bulls should keep him, now that the improvement is beginning to flow.
Another rumor that makes a little sense is Stoudemire to Portland for LaMarcus Aldridge and Raef LaFrentz' expiring contract. Stoudemire should be a step up from Aldridge, but the Blazers may like Aldridge's attitude and demeanor too much to make a risky trade.
Like I've mentioned before, if Stoudemire could be locked in at $15-16 million over the next six years, this would be an easy decision for the Bulls and other teams. But he can become a free agent in 2010 and may command a yearly salary on the free market that soars beyond $20 million.
Stoudemire was talkative the past couple of days. On Friday, he told the Arizona Republic that he wants to remain in Phoenix, although he made it sound as though he's resigned to leaving.
“I would love to stay here. You just never know what happens,” he said. “It's kind of good that a lot of teams want me right now. That's positive. I know for sure, wherever I go, we're going to definitely be playoff contenders. I bring a lot to the table.”
That last line might bring comfort to teams considering a run at Stoudemire. They'd want him to arrive with a chip on his shoulder, out to prove Phoenix made a mistake by dealing him. Of course, actions speak louder than words.
On Saturday, Stoudemire talked about how he's being used in Phoenix and blamed coaching strategy and the presence of Shaquille O'Neal for his production dropping from last season's 25.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and .590 field-goal percentage.
“I led the league in and-ones (3-point play opportunities) the past four years,” he said. “That's definitely a positive in my game. I want to be that force down in the paint. That's my bread and butter. That's what made me Amaré Stoudemire is being able to finish down there and get those and-ones, get to the free throw line.
“I can't roll because the big fella (O'Neal) is down there so I've got to pick and pop now, which is something new for me. I'm so used to pick-and-rolling and finishing in the paint. Pick and pop is something I just started doing this season. The space is not quite the same.”
Just to clarify, by pick-and-pop he means shooting outside jumpers after setting a pick and there was no way to quickly verify his claim of leading the NBA in and-ones.
“I guess it's a little tough from the coaching staff's standpoint,” he added. “You've got two dominant big men who pretty much demand the ball. It's probably a little tough for the coaching staff to figure it out.”
By the way, a web poll in the Republic was running close to 50-50 on whether or not the Suns should trade Stoudemire. Not trading might have had a slight edge.
BULLS END TRIP WITH LOSS
Going 4-3 on the ice show road trip is a nice result, but the Bulls should have been 6-1. They've got to finish off wins when leading by 7 with 3:54 remaining, as they did at Minnesota to start the trip, and especially when they're up 5 with 1:30 left, as in Dallas on Saturday.
No great analysis is needed after the Mavericks game: When one player is killing you, send some double teams. Encourage Derrick Rose to work in some passes in late-game situations. Finish a layup after driving within 6 inches of the rim in the final minutes of a close game.