The last time Amaré Stoudemire felt this kind of attention, he chose Memphis when he was being recruited by colleges.
This time, the Suns star is not even eligible for recruitment until at least July 2010, but
that's not stopping people- just fans, so far - from trying to pry him from Phoenix.
"Everywhere I go, from New York to LA, they're all saying, 'Come here,' 'Come to LA,' 'Come to New York,' 'We want you here,' 'We want you there,' " Stoudemire said before adding a qualifier to ease those who don't want him to leave Phoenix.
"But I like it here in Phoenix," he said. "Phoenix is a beautiful city. I've grown here, and my family has as well. Hopefully I can remain here, but only the future can tell.
"Right now I've got a Phoenix Suns jersey, and that's where my loyalty is."
Stoudemire will be eligible for a Suns contract extension this summer because he will have two contract years remaining, one of which he could opt out of to be part of the 2010 NBA free-agency bonanza. If he does, he would pass on a $17.7 million salary in 2010-11. It is a decision he might face, because it is not a given that Phoenix would extend his contract.
Stoudemire is giving the Suns reason to ponder a longer commitment. The best impression has come on the boards, where he is averaging 12.3 rebounds over the past eight games.
"I'm just attacking," he said. "I really want to eliminate any flaws in my game. Rebounding at the start of the season was one. Before the season, Shaq (O'Neal) and I talked about what the deal was. Shaq wanted to get all the rebounds. I want to get out and run. But it became an issue that I'm not rebounding. Scratch that. That's in the past."
Stoudemire, who is averaging 9.0 rebounds this season, always has been pegged as player who should be a double-digit rebounder. However, the only power forwards doing that are the Los Angeles Clippers' Zach Randolph and Marcus Camby, a former center, and San Antonio's Tim Duncan, who often plays center.
"I think he's gotten better," Suns coach Terry Porter said of Stoudemire. "Even if he didn't get it (a rebound in Thursday's game), he made the effort to go on the offensive boards and get hands on it. That's the type of activity we need from him. We're a different team when he attacks the offensive glass, gets three or four of them and gets us extra possessions. That's huge for us. Other guys feed off that."
Stoudemire's work and five extra minutes of floor time per game have translated to career bests in free-throw shooting (83 percent), assists (2.1 per game) and steals (1.2). His blocks-per-game average is down from 2.1 last season to 1.2 this season, but he fouls less (3.1, down from 3.7).
"My loyalty to the game of basketball is pretty serious, so I work hard every off-season," Stoudemire said. "I listen, and I'm very coachable. I try to improve. That's my motto: Never settle for less."
It could be a contract-negotiation motto, too, but Stoudemire said he is convinced that the club is making moves to meet his goal of winning a championship. An extension might keep him with the Suns for the rest of his career.
"That'd be beautiful to play with one team for my whole career," Stoudemire said. "That'd be ideal, but only the future can tell."