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Leadership Talk

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It sounds like the time Mike D'Antoni has spent with Amare Stoudemire as an assistant coach during the FIBA Americas tournament has really helped the relationship between them. In an AZCentral article earlier this week, D'Antoni is quoted as saying:

"This has helped us. All players like assistants. I can talk to him and build him up so, yeah, we've become closer. Next year, he will take more of a leadership role with the (Suns)."
That sentiment is repeated in a second AZCentral article as well:
D'Antoni will turn more leadership over to Stoudemire, who has longed for the chance but has been learning how and when to do so in recent years. He has communicated with teammates this summer to touch base and "took notes" on Steve Nash's leadership skills for the past three years.
So it sounds like perhaps the time has come to take at least the first steps toward preparing for the Suns' post-Steve Nash future, or maybe even more.

I have a couple of thoughts about this. First, I am one of those who generally thinks that Steve belongs at the helm for as long as he can physically handle the task. This is admittedly at least partially an unfair resistance to change on my part. It is not a stretch to say that Steve's presence in the league and on this team is a major reason why I became interested in the NBA again in the first place, and I think the Suns would be much less fun to watch if they became just another "dump it into the big guy" team. But personal biases aside, I also happen to think he's the best qualified for the job. Being a leader, and all the diplomatic stuff that comes with it, just comes naturally to Steve. The same is not yet true of Amare, whose penchant for tooting his own horn leaves one to wonder what effect his taking on the role of team leader might have on chemistry. So, if D'Antoni means that starting this season, the Suns are all about Amare, well, suffices to say things could get sticky rather quickly in the lockerroom, unless he's also managed to find the cure for chronic, recurring "foot in mouth" disease.

However, I'm thinking that the coach probably has something a little more subtle in mind, like making Amare the clear primary scoring option more often, and giving him more opportunities to make plays for others when his own shot isn't there. This is something I do think is a good idea. It's how the Suns were built in 2004-05, and probably how they would still function today had Amare not missed the 2005-06 season. Also, it would make things a lot less taxing on Steve if he doesn't have to make every play himself. One thing I noticed while watching Amare during the FIBA tournament is that he seems to have gotten a little better with his passing. So I think mixing in a little "pass the ball to Amare and let him decide what to do with it" can only help this team. Besides, when Amare is making statements like this:

"I'm so focused on winning a title. It's all I can think about"
...well maybe it is time for the Suns to become all about Amare.

While Amare is working on becoming a leader for his team, Steve Nash is working on becoming a leader on bit more global scale. It seems Steve got together with Yao Ming a few months back, and decided it was time to do something for the orphans in Yao's home country. Thus, Steve will be participating in another charity game later this month, pitting himself along with fellow Sun Leandro Barbosa and several other NBA players against Yao and the Chinese national team. For the Steve Nash Charity Classic in July, we were able to get a first hand report from SueB who attended the game in person. Do we have any readers who will be at this game in Beijing on September 14?

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