Tuesday , Jun , 29 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Dampier would be perfect for Phoenix

(Sports Network) – The Phoenix Suns have room under the salary cap and
should be able to make a serious run during the offseason at some of the NBA’s
high-priced free agents.

The Suns already have two young stars on their roster, as power forward Amare
Stoudemire and small forward Shawn Marion makeup two-thirds of Phoenix’
starting lineup. The 21-year-old Stoudemire averaged 20.6 points and nine
rebounds in 55 games for the Suns in 2003-04, while Marion finished with 19
points and 9.3 boards per game in 79 contests.

Phoenix was able to create cap space when it traded guard Stephon Marbury and
swingman Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway to the New York Knicks in January as part
of a blockbuster trade. The Suns wanted to position themselves to make a run
at some of the big names in free agency, and they are going to have that
opportunity this summer.

Kobe Bryant will most likely get a call from the Suns, who would love to add
him to their roster, When all is said and done, the All-Star guard will
probably re-sign with the Los Angels Lakers, who can pay him the most money.
Bryant will be the Suns’ top priority, but is he what Phoenix really needs to
get back to the elite in the West.

The player that the Suns should set their sights on is center Erick Dampier.
According to the Contra Costa Times, Dampier has provided the Golden State
Warriors with proper paperwork exercising an opt-out clause in his contract.
Dampier, who was set to earn a guaranteed $17 million over the next two
seasons, will become a free agent on July 1.

Dampier, who will turn 30 on July 14th, is coming off the best season of his
eight-year career. In 74 games for Golden State in the 2003-04 regular season,
Dampier averaged career-highs in points (12.3 ppg) and rebounds (12 rpg). He
also shot a career-best 53.5 percent from the field to go along with a solid
1.85 blocks per game.

Originally selected out of Mississippi State by the Indiana Pacers in the
first round (10th pick overall) of the 1996 NBA Draft, Dampier would give the
Suns a center who can hold his own against the other big men in the West.
During his career, the Mississippi State product has averaged 8.9 points and
7.2 boards in 497 contests. He has never played in an NBA playoff game.

With the 26-year-old Marion and Stoudemire already set at the forward spots,
adding Dampier, who was traded by the Pacers along with Duane Ferrell to
the Warriors for Chris Mullin in August 1997, would give the Suns one
of the toughest frontcourts in Western Conference, which is won down low.

Phoenix does have a solid shooting guard in Joe Johnson, who will be just 23-
years-old on June 29th. A former Boston Celtic, Johnson averaged a career-high
16.7 points per game while playing in all 82 regular season games for the Suns
this past season. In his three-year career, Johnson has improved his scoring
in each season and should continue to be a solid player.

The Suns, who finished a dismal 29-53 in 2003-04 and did not qualify for the
postseason, have a chance to improve immediately. The 6-11 Dampier is in the
prime of his career, and his production from last season could continue to
improve.

Signing Bryant would be great, but the Suns have a chance to add a presence in
the middle that would give them a formidable frontcourt for years to come.
Dampier would fit in perfectly in Phoenix.

PHO