Stoudemire signs five-year, $73 million contract

Posted: Tuesday, October 04, 2005

PHOENIX (AP) — Amare Stoudemire signed a five-year contract extension Monday with the Phoenix Suns worth about $73 million. The deal is the maximum allowed under the NBA collective bargaining agreement for the forward who jumped from high school to stardom. The exact figures won't be known until next year's salary cap is set, Suns president Bryan Colangelo said. The extension kicks in after this season and has an opt-out clause after the 2009-10 season.

''What I've achieved now is something that I always figured I would as a kid,'' Stoudemire said. ''I've had that type of determination since I was a youngster playing around the playgrounds, getting dirty after school.''

He signed the contract a month shy of his 23rd birthday as the Suns gathered for media day preceding the start of their training camp in Tucson on Tuesday.

The 6-foot-10, 245-pound power forward played out of position at center and dominated opponents last season for the high-scoring, fast-breaking Suns.

Known for his breathtaking slam dunks and uncanny quickness, Stoudemire averaged 26 points per game, fifth-best in the league, as a key member of a Phoenix team that won an NBA-best 62 games.

''It's huge for the franchise,'' said teammate and last season's MVP Steve Nash. ''He's the cornerstone of this franchise.''

Stoudemire, the No. 9 pick in the 2002 draft, won the Rookie of the Year award over Yao Ming in 2002-03 and has improved each season. He averaged just under 30 points a game in last year's playoffs — 37 against Tim Duncan in the Western Conference finals.

The signing follows a lucrative deal with Nike last month.

''I've just been working on my game the whole summer to try to take us to the top,'' Stoudemire said. ''This has been a $100 million summer for me, so I'm very proud of that. I'm just looking forward to bringing the championship home right here in Phoenix.''

The Suns never have won an NBA title.

Stoudemire is one of basketball's great success stories. He was 12 when his father died, and his mother was in and out of jail. His older brother is in federal prison. But Stoudemire never has been in trouble.

''My main thing is I just stay focused on my all-time goals, and that's to become a role model for my family and also become the best basketball player I can be,'' he said.

Moments after he saw the then 19-year-old work out before the 2002 draft, Suns chairman Jerry Colangelo told fellow team officials ''this is our guy.''

''Someone asked me a short time ago 'You know, Amare's accomplished so much what do you think his upside is?''' the elder Colangelo said on Monday. ''And I said, 'If you recognize how far he's come in his game, you combine God-given talent with a work ethic that is terrific and a heart to be the very best, I don't know how high is high.'''

Stoudemire has been a familiar companion of team owner Robert Sarver this summer, accompanying him on trips to try to lure free agents. He even got to ring the opening bell, with Sarver at his side, at the New York Stock Exchange.

The long-term contract should keep him in Phoenix at least five more years.

''The fans are just a pleasure to be around,'' Stoudemire said. ''When I'm out in public, they greet me with open arms. Also the organization has been great from the beginning. I think it's only right that I stay here and continue what I started.''

Stoudemire said he is a better player now than he was at the end of last season ''as far as understanding the game of basketball, opening up and just working on different skills on the offensive end and being more focused on defense.''

Someone asked about reports he has developed a 3-point shot.

''We're going to keep that a secret right now,'' he said with a big smile. ''We're trying to surprise guys with that. You're trying to put our arsenal out.'''

Stoudemire was given input into the changes the team made, and he likes them, especially the acquisition of Kurt Thomas from the New York Knicks to help on the defensive load inside. He believes the team will be better, despite the departure of Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson.

''We have guys that can score and still put up the same amount of points we put up last year, and also defend a lot better,'' Stoudemire said.

Coach Mike D'Antoni expects the big contract to have no effect on Stoudemire's work ethic or attitude.

''I think he really wants to be the best player to ever play the game,'' D'Antoni said. ''He set that goal for himself maybe when he was 10 years old. I don't know. But he came in with that attitude and whatever we've asked as coaches, he's done.''

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