Thursday , Nov , 18 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Stoudemire is ready to join the elite

By Warren Blatt, Sports Network NBA Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – Phoenix Suns power forward Amare
Stoudemire has started the 2004-05 campaign on fire.

The 22-year-old Stoudemire has led the Suns to six wins in their first eight
contests, which is Phoenix’ best start since the 2000-01 season when the Suns
were 7-1 at the same point.

Stoudemire, who is playing a little over 36 minutes per contest, leads the
Suns in scoring (27.6 ppg) and is second on the team in rebounding (8.9 rpg).
He has scored 20 or more points in every game and has managed to record four
double-doubles.

Originally selected out of Cypress Creek High School by Phoenix in the first
round (ninth pick overall) in the 2002 NBA Draft, Stoudemire has teamed with
small forward Shawn Marion and guards Steve Nash and Quentin Richardson to
give Phoenix a lethal foursome that can match up against any squad in the
league.

In a 107-101 victory over Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks, Stoudemire
netted a game-high 34 points to go along with 11 rebounds, while Richardson
scored 18 and Marion finished with 18 points and a team-best 14 boards. Nash,
who left Dallas during the offseason to sign with the Suns as a free agent,
also had a big game as he registered 17 points and a game-high 18 assists.

“It was a good effort,” said Phoenix head coach Mike D’Antoni after the win
over the Mavericks. “If we are going to play small, which we do; if the effort
is there and the conscientiousness on team defense, I think we can get by with
it. I thought the defense Shawn Marion but on Nowitzki; I am not going to say
anything stupid because Nowitzki can torch anybody; Shawn Marion did an
unbelievable job on Dirk.

“He (Marion) did not give him any good looks. A lot of times Dirk makes them
anyway, but we were fortunate that he was missing some shots and got into foul
trouble. I thought Shawn Marion did the best job you can do on a guy like
that. You add into the mix, Amare and Steve Nash, and that is why we got the
win. Amare was huge.”

After defeating the Mavericks, Phoenix knocked off the New Orleans Hornets,
95-84, the next night. Stoudemire was once again a monster, as he played 46
minutes and finished with a game-high 38 points on 14-of-22 from the floor.

“This was a good back-to-back for us,” said Stoudemire after the win over the
Hornets. “We came on the trip with the intent of getting two wins. I just
tried to get good position on offense. They did come with the double team, but
it was a little too late. It’s always fun when you have the best point guard
(Nash) in the league on your team. I just go out and play hard. I had a pretty
decent game except I missed a lot of free throws.”

Not only is Stoudemire putting up impressive statistics when it comes to
points and rebounds, he is shooting 56.7 percent from the field and is
averaging two blocks per game.

With Marion, Nash and Richardson as his teammates, Stoudemire has been able to
take advantage of all of the opportunities that come his way. Phoenix’
opponents can’t just worry about him and Marion anymore, they have to account
for Nash and Richardson as well.

Marion, Nash and Richardson have become better players because of the
incredible production of Stoudemire, who is allowing his teammates to get
better looks at the basket because teams are trying to figure out how to stop
him.

The 6-10 Stoudemire is on his way to being mentioned in the same sentence as
the other great power forwards in the game. Sure, San Antonio’s Tim Duncan,
Minnesota’s Kevin Garnett, Nowitzki and Indiana’s Jermaine O’Neal have been
around a lot longer than Stoudemire. However, the Suns’ power forward has been
able to elevate his game to the next level in just his third year in the NBA.
He is a force on both ends of the court, and if he can stay healthy he should
be able to lead the Suns back into the postseason.

Great players make their teammates better, and that is what Stoudemire is
doing.