DALLAS -- One by one, the All-Stars from the Phoenix Suns’ "Seven Seconds or Less" era are riding off into the sunset.
First, Shawn Marion announced that he’d retire at this season's end, the Matrix’s 16th in the league. Then Steve Nash officially called it a career, his 41-year-old body failing to allow him to play his 19th season.
But Amar'e Stoudemire, the 13-year veteran whose best seasons came when he was running and gunning with Nash and Marion in Phoenix, isn’t remotely close to being ready to consider hanging up his Nikes.
“I’m the last man standing,” Stoudemire said with a smile while stretched out on the floor of the visitors locker room with a pair of compression boots during the Dallas Mavericks’ recent trip to Phoenix. “I plan on standing for a while, by the way.
“No, no, there’s no way. There’s a lot of youth in these legs. I have a lot of competitive juices still flowing in me. There’s no way I’m ready to be the next man."
At 32 with chronic knee issues, Stoudemire is no longer the athletic freak he was during his high-flying Phoenix days, when he routinely soared high above the rim to catch lobs from Nash and finish in highlight fashion. But Stoudemire remains plenty capable of providing scoring punch off a playoff team’s bench and plans to continue doing so for a long time to come, speculating that he could play five or six years with the proper maintenance.
The Mavs -- who signed Stoudemire for the veterans minimum after he received an All-Star break buyout from the final season of his five-year, $99.7 million contract with the New York Knicks -- will be among the teams expressing interest in him this summer. He’s been productive as the Mavs’ backup center, averaging an efficient 9.8 points and 3.4 rebounds in 15.8 minutes per game.
Owner Mark Cuban has made it clear that he’d like Stoudemire to stay in Dallas, comparing him to Vince Carter, another former perennial All-Star who contributed in a reserve role for the Mavs.
“I love Amar’e -- love, love, love the guy,” Cuban said. “There’s not enough superlatives. He’s just a great guy on the court and off. I just love his physicality. He just wants to win and is a great guy.”
Stoudemire chose the Mavs over several other suitors last month, so clearly there’s mutual interest. Money, minutes and maximizing the chances of winning his first championship -- not necessarily in that order -- will likely be the biggest factors in Stoudemire’s decision this summer.
The Mavs will probably offer Stoudemire a significant piece of their midlevel exception. Stoudemire, who says he can “compete at a high level for years to come,” will likely request a multiyear deal.
But there will be plenty of time this summer to have those kinds of conversations. And, as much urgency as he feels to contend for a title now, Stoudemire is certain he has plenty of time left in his career.
“This isn’t it for me, for sure,” Stoudemire said. “There’s a lot of basketball left. There’s a lot of high-level basketball left in me. I feel competitive. I have faith in my body, what I can do on a basketball court on a consistent basis.
“The next step should be the best step, because I want to make sure I leave the game on a high note. That’s the ultimate goal.”