From once donning the orange and purple to now the orange and blue, Friday marks Suns fans’ first opportunity to see Amar’e Stoudemire’s return to the site of some of his biggest NBA accomplishments, as the Suns host the Knicks at US Airways Center.
Likewise, just months after going free agent and landing in the Big Apple, the Suns’ fourth-best all-time scorer (21.4 ppg) and 2003 NBA Rookie of the Year also gets his first look at his old team.
“He’s a great player,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry. “Nobody’s ever questioned that. He was a great player for the (seven-plus) years he was here. They are playing great basketball and obviously Amar’e is the focal point. Looking over the course of his career, it doesn’t surprise me what he’s doing in New York at all.
“He’s embraced the role of what he has (there). That’s his team, and that’s something he’s always wanted. He’s shown the leadership and the ability to carry a team, and he’s put them in the position to make them a playoff team.”
As for some inside info on knowing the All-Star forward’s “tells” out on the court, Gentry admitted his past coaching history won’t ensure anything for the Suns come tip off against his former player.
“You think people who know Peyton Manning, that works in their favor well?” Gentry asked. “If you’re a great player, you’re a great player. STAT’s played against some really great teams and still gotten his numbers. To think you’ll just shut him down, that won’t happen.”
Leading the Knicks with 26.4 ppg in his first season in New York, Gentry had no shortage of complements for Stoudemire with one small caveat.
“He did a great job as a tri-captain here last year,” said the Suns’ head coach. “As a player, he’s done great things here. I’m happy for him and I hope he wins every game… except the two he plays against us.”