|Amar'e Stoudemire is reportedly drawing interest from the 76ers. (Getty Images)|
The vultures are swirling around the big, rotten apple.
With the New York Knicks just 7-13 to start the season and All-Star forward Amar'e Stoudemire scoring 8 points per game less than last season, the first rush of trade winds is in effect.
CSNPhilly.com reports that it is the Philadelphia 76ers, an Atlantic Division rival, that phoned the Knicks to inquire about Stoudemire's availability.
According to a league source, the Sixers have inquired about Stoudemire, though it was categorized as “due diligence.” Nothing is said to be imminent or even in the early stages other than just talk, the source said. Nevertheless, in past seasons the Sixers were reportedly discussing trade scenarios with the Phoenix Suns in order to acquire Stoudemire.The Knicks' early season struggles are well-documented. Without a capable point guard to point the group in the right direction, New York has stumbled out of the gate and is currently tracking to be a lottery team despite the presence of two All-Stars and Tyson Chandler in the starting lineup.
Stoudemire, who drew some MVP talk last season, has been hit particularly hard, averaging just 17.7 points and shooting 42.8 percent from the field so far this season. For comparison, he hasn't averaged less than 20 points in a season in which he was healthy since his rookie year in 2002-2003 and he's a career 53.3 percent shooter. His effectiveness on offense, the only side of the ball where he's a real difference-maker, has plummeted from elite to pedestrian.
To see those changes from a 29-year-old player of his caliber, even one with his injury history, is unusual. The obvious read here is that the struggles are of the situational variety. The lack of a backcourt plus the lockout-shortened season plus the presence of a ball-dominating Carmelo Anthony is a tricky trio for Stoudemire to overcome. Smart teams should be calling.
Of course that doesn't mean that he's actually going anywhere. Including this season, Stoudemire has roughly $83 million left to be payed on the massive contract he signed prior to last season. Given that he can't be amnestied by a team that trades for him, any suitor would assume all of the injury-related risk that the massive contract represents. With the new collective bargaining agreement's harsher luxury tax system kicking in soon, teams are expected to be increasingly wary of having monster type deals on their books for non-monster performers.
The questions right now: Will Stoudemire return to form and, if so, when? If it doesn't happen soon, and in a big way, it will be next to impossible to trade him before the deadline. If it does happen, New York's motivation to keep him skyrockets. Unless his personal improvement brings with it an even deeper team-wide struggle, it's difficult to see a sweet spot created where other teams are interested in his services at his price and New York is willing to part ways.
This was a long-winded way of saying these rumors are premature.
Related: Another trade scenario, involving Stoudemire in a package to the Orlando Magic for All-Star center Dwight Howard, was also raised last week.