Nothing is confirmed as teams ‘up’ their Amare offers

Sources: Teams sweeten Amare offers

 By Chris Broussard
ESPN The Magazine

While Cleveland has zeroed in on Amare Stoudemire, it benefits the Suns to let the process play out until the last hours before Thursday's deadline.

Sources with knowledge of the negotiations said Saturday night that the Cavs and Suns were in serious talks about a deal that would send Zydrunas Ilgauskas and J.J. Hickson to Phoenix in exchange for Stoudemire, one of the league's most dominant big man.


Stoudemire is averaging 21.2 points and 8.6 rebounds on the season.

But reports that the five-time All-Star Stoudemire could be headed to Cleveland have led other clubs to spice up their offers to Phoenix, according to sources.

The ball is now in Phoenix's court.

The Suns are mulling over whether the financial relief provided by Ilgauskas' $12 million contract -- they'll likely waive Ilgauskas after the trade -- and the young and talented Hickson are enough for them to part with an impact player like Stoudemire.

And the Cavaliers have to be fairly certain that Stoudemire would be willing to re-sign with them before giving up the fast-improving Hickson.

However, according to sources, Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala, appears to be the Suns' top choice.

So far, the Sixers have been leery of giving up their best player for Stoudemire.

While Stoudemire has good relationships with LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal, some close to Stoudemire believe Miami -- where he lives during the summer -- is his first choice.

Miami has pursued Stoudemire hard but has no one on its roster (besides Dwyane Wade) that interests Phoenix, according to sources. That includes Michael Beasley. So it would take a three-team deal for Stoudemire to be traded to the Heat.

Of course, Cleveland can also pursue three-team deals that would sweeten the offer for Phoenix.

Chris Broussard is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.

Cavs-Suns trade far from a done deal

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From all indications, a potential Amar'e Stoudemire trade to the Cavaliers is far from being done.

The Cavaliers reportedly offered center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, forward J.J. Hickson and possibly a first-round pick for the five-time All-Star.

Stoudemire, 27, would seemingly give the Cavs the needed firepower to win their first NBA championship.

He was the starting center for the Western Conference in Sunday's All-Star game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The 6-foot-10, 249-pounder is averaging 21 points and 8.6 rebounds per game this season.

He missed part of last season with an eye injury and had microfracture surgery on his knee in 2005. But he's gotten most of explosiveness back and is one of the most talented big men in the league.

An imposing front line of 7-1 Shaquille O'Neal, Stoudemire and 6-8 LeBron James would strike fear into every team in the league.

There were conflicting reports about how far along the Stoudemire deal is with the Cavs, who are 43-11 and winners of 13 straight games. Some said it's almost a done deal and the teams are just crossing their "T's" and dotting their "I's."

Others think the Suns are still fielding offers from other teams, most notably Philadelphia and Miami.

Cavs general manager Danny Ferry was unavailable for comment.

This much is known: Ferry and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert met with Suns GM Steve Kerr and Suns owner Robert Sarver in Dallas on Friday.

That's where some think the teams laid the foundation of their second blockbuster deal between the Cavs and Suns in the last eight months. Kerr sent O'Neal to the Cavs on June 26, 2009, for forward/center Ben Wallace and guard/forward Sasha Pavlovic — both spare parts — along with cash and a draft pick. The Suns bought both players out of their contracts.

Ilgauskas' $11.5 million expiring contract has become quite attractive as the NBA nears the trade deadline at 3 p.m. Thursday.

The Cavs are hoping whichever team acquires Ilgauskas would buy him out of his deal, which would allow him to return to Cleveland after 30 days. That can't be written into any deal. It would have to be a "wink-wink" clause between the two teams.

For those conspiracy theorists out there, one report suggests the Stoudemire rumors are a smoke screen for what the Cavs are really trying to do — acquire Wizards forward Antawn Jamison.

The 6-9, 230-pound Jamison might be a better fit for the Cavs for the stretch run this season. The Cavs could also make a deal for Pacers forward/center Troy Murphy.

Stoudemire, though, appears to be the Cavs' No. 1 target.

He is making $16.4 million this season. He has a player option on his 2010-11 contract worth $17.7 million. If the Cavs make the trade, they'd probably want to sign him to a contract extension.

Jamison, 33, seems like he'd fit in seamlessly with the Cavs. He's the classic "stretch 4" for which they've been looking. But he has two more years on his contract after this year, worth $13 million in 2010-11 and $15 million in 2011-12 — quite risky considering his age.

Stoudemire was paired with O'Neal in Phoenix last year and it was anything but smooth sailing. Some thought they both clogged the lane.

He is adept at making the mid-range jumper, but he still gets most of his points inside. He would also be the second or third option with the Cavs. Would he be able to accept that kind of role?

Would he roll up his sleeves, play defense and buy into Coach Mike Brown's system? He's capable of being a very strong post defender.

It could be one of the biggest coups in Cavs history or Stoudemire could knock over the apple cart.

Trade rumors have followed him around in the last couple years as the cash-strapped Suns want to avoid the luxury tax at all costs.

He doesn't know the reason.

"I don't understand why," he told the Arizona Republic. "It's not being explained to me why every year there's always trade talk with me being involved. It's a little difficult to deal with.

"They never really explain why the trade talk is coming, why they want to trade me. I've done a lot of work in the community. I've been trouble-free forever, so I just don't understand."

Stoudemire said he'd love to play for a team competing for the championship.

"That's my goal," he said. "The Suns' goal may be a little bit different. I'm not sure. I don't know if they see me in their future plans. I don't know what they don't see within me."

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