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Old 08-28-2009, 04:00 AM   #1
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Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: PHX
Posts: 3,257
Default Team First Concept Still Eludes Amar'e

"The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom."

Sun Tzu

Are you paying attention, Amaré Stoudemire? This man you've come to admire, this military theorist whose moniker you've chosen to adopt, has some valuable insight on leadership.
Surely somewhere in the Chinese general's book, The Art of War, is a chapter that says conjecture about your possible departure a month removed from Suns training camp is not the right approach to unifying a team, let alone a fan base.

Sigh. Stoudemire has done it again, irking some with his comments Tuesday that the 2009-2010 season "might be my farewell tour." Poor timing? You bet. Worthy of an uproar? Hardly.

Stoudemire is an enigma. His choices at times are ill-advised but rarely ill-meaning. You hang around this game enough, you can smell a bad seed. He's not one of them.

His challenging upbringing meant his didn't learn many life lessons until he arrived in the NBA. The arts of teamwork and camaraderie come easier for players such as Grant Hill because they have benefited from years of constant parental tutelage. For those who learn on the fly, such as Stoudemire, attempts at leadership can be clumsy at times.

So although the Sun Tzu bit might seem contrived to some, it's Stoudemire trying to flex his leadership muscles and, sure, maybe trying to market himself a little bit. This is the NBA, after all.

His comments about his legacy - "If we're not in the playoffs, my legacy is going backwards" - also bothered some, but in the context of the conversation, it certainly wasn't end-of-the-world stuff. Many athletes measure their accomplishments based on how their teams fared.

Let's not forget where Stoudemire was when he made those remarks: at Martin Luther King Elementary School giving a lengthy, and by numerous accounts, impressive speech about education. He brought up his future, he said, to remind the students that "it may be a long time coming before a big-time superstar athlete comes here and speaks" to them again.

If you want to question leadership, look to the guy who just left town. Shaquille O'Neal proclaimed he wanted to be a good teammate, but his behind-the-scenes actions suggested otherwise.

This is not to say Stoudemire doesn't need to step up his game. He needs to improve his defense, and he needs to stop talking publicly about what ownership should do with its money. Sometimes you get the feeling Stoudemire has way too many people in his ear.

So, yes, I'd still rather have an agile, 26-year-old, 6-foot-10 "point center" on my team than not. The Suns won 46 games last season, many without Stoudemire. They can do better this year with him, even without O'Neal in the equation.

No Suns player had more time for self-reflection this off-season than Stoudemire. To heal his detached retina, he was forced to remain face down 22 hours a day for 10 consecutive days.

Talk about whetting an appetite for something taken away from you.

Last time we spoke, he reflected on how much this community has meant to him, how the team has treated him well and how he would like to stay here.

The team will not engage in contract-extension talks until he's back on the court. If discussions don't go well and he declines his $17.6 million player option for the 2010-11 season, he would become a free agent in July.

If Stoudemire truly believes in the words of Sun Tzu, he'll rise to the occasion and put the team first . . . and truly understand the phrase "jewel of the kingdom."
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