Stoudemire Will Help Recruit Wavering Team USA Players
SAN ANTONIO -- Amar'e Stoudemire didn't go to college, but that doesn't mean he doesn't know anything about recruiting.
The Phoenix star is committed to playing for Team USA at this summer's World Championships in Turkey. When the NBA season is over, he plans to get on the phone with any top players who might be wavering in an effort to convince them to play.
"Oh, yeah, absolutely," Stoudemire said. "[They will be told] we haven't won the World Games gold medal since 1994. So it would be a big win for us. Try and get it.
"I'll call them and ask them whether they're going to play. But even if a few guys don't, I'm still in.''
Some top players wavering include LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. But you better believe Stoudemire isn't wishy-washy.
Stoudemire didn't endear himself to USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo when he pulled out just before the 2008 Olympics. But he convinced Colangelo to take him back, and in February was named to the then 27-man and now 31-man roster that will be used for this year's World Championships and the 2012 Olympics.
"There was a time when he was not really going to be considered," Colangelo said in February. "Had he not really reached out through his own efforts personally and his agent [Happy Walters] about his extreme desire to be part of it, he would not have been part of it.''
So, naturally, Stoudemire is not wavering in the slightest.
"I'm fully committed,'' he said. "I'm totally committed. It's an honor to be part of USA Basketball.''
The big man speaks with less certainty about the other big thing on his docket this summer. He would become a free agent if he doesn't sign a contract extension by the June 30 deadline and then decides to opt out of a deal that would pay him $17.69 million next season.
While Stoudemire told FanHouse in February he was leaning toward not opting out, he since has regularly thrown out "50-50'' percentages about whether he wants to return to the Suns next season. Even though Phoenix entered Friday's Game 3 of a West semifinal at San Antonio leading 2-0, putting them two wins shy of their first conference final since 2006, Stoudemire insists nothing has risen to even 52-48.
"It doesn't really change anything, to be honest with you,'' Stoudemire said of the Suns' recent winning. "Because this summer is going to be a big decision for myself. So I got to wait and see how it plays out. It's still 50-50.''
Stoudemire said all options remain in play. Those include signing an extension, not opting out or opting out and trying his luck on the open market.
"I'll go through the options as soon as we're doing playing ... and see what scenario is best for me,'' Stoudemire said.
While FanHouse had reported last month about the team's desire to offer a contract extension to Stoudemire, Suns general manager Steve Kerr said negotiations are pretty much on hold while the Suns remain in the playoffs because it can "become a distraction to get involved in contract discussions.'' But count Kerr as believing Phoenix's continued winning ways help the chances of Stoudemire returning next season.
"I think so,'' Kerr said. "We want him back. We've made that pretty clear. It's just business. We'll see how it goes.''
Stoudemire lately hasn't been hurting his chances for at least near-maximum bucks. He averaged 23.0 points and 12.0 rebounds in the first two games of the series against the Spurs.
"That's a pretty serious injury to his eye,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Stoudemire really coming on during the second half of the season. He got off to a slow start due to having suffered in February 2009 a partially detached retina in his right eye and not being able to work out a lot last summer. "It takes a little bit of time. But he's shown everybody that he's got everything that he had before his travails. He's the Amar'e Stoudemire of old.''
Soon, Stoudemire plans to get on the phone in hopes he can help the Americans this summer be the Team USA of old.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson