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Suns dealing with coaching transition, star on trading block

By David Aldridge, TNT analyst
Posted Feb 16 2009 9:44AM

PHOENIX -- This was supposed to be a celebration for the Phoenix Suns, hosts of this year's All-Star Weekend. Even though the Seven Seconds or Less philosophy of former coach Mike D'Antoni has gone to New York, the Suns still have a winning record, Shaquille O'Neal is having a renaissance at age 36 and the Suns have two All-Stars on the West roster.

But no one is happy in the Valley of the Sun(s), with head coach Terry Porter's firing and the trade of Amar'e Stoudemire -- for non-basketball reasons -- still a strong possibility before Thursday's trade deadline.

Porter told The Associated Press on Monday that he was dismissed from his position after general manager Steve Kerr broke the news to him at a Sunday night meeting.

Porter's demise was just a matter of if rather than when. As of Sunday morning, the Suns hadn't officially made the decision to dismiss Porter (despite his having a winning record; at 28-23, the Suns are a game out of the final playoff spot in the West). But Porter's firing means the Suns are likely to elevate assistant Alvin Gentry to the head job.

The Stoudemire dealings are also a factor in the timing of firing Porter; Gentry, sources indicated, is dead set against moving Stoudemire and has made that clear to Phoenix management. However, he has no leverage to make demands, and would have to accept it if the 26-year-old All-Star is moved.

Either way, Gentry, according to sources, is committed to restoring D'Antoni's philosophy, feeling the Suns can still make the playoffs and be a factor by returning to their old ways.

A change in philosophy should not keep the Suns from having success with O'Neal on the floor. The Suns had success in transition with O'Neal last season. In his last 18 regular-season appearances, the team went 15-3, averaging 112 points per game and shooting 52 percent from the floor (and 47 percent from three-point range).

Gentry's belief that the Suns still can be a playoff factor is shared by others in the organization. Many in Phoenix still point to the team's bad luck in recent postseasons; the injury to Joe Johnson that kept him out of the 2003 playoffs; the inability to stop the bleeding in a cut on Steve Nash's nose in Game 1 of the 2007 West semifinals, a series the Suns lost to the Spurs; the suspension of Stoudemire for stepping on the court after San Antonio's Robert Horry body-slammed Nash into the signage board two years ago in the Western Conference semis.

As of Sunday, the most tangible offers for Stoudemire still appeared to be from Chicago, which can put an offer of expiring contracts like forward Drew Gooden with players like forward Joakim Noah. Reports that the Cavaliers have offered a package including the expiring deal of forward Wally Szczerbiak and rookie forward J.J. Hickson were shot down Sunday by Cleveland general manager Danny Ferry -- who acknowledged having a phone call with Suns GM Steve Kerr, but said no trade proposals were made during their discussion.

"There's nothing really active right now, nothing concrete," Ferry said. "I would be surprised if we did anything at this point."

Trade talk between Phoenix and Memphis was "cool" on Sunday, a league source said, indicating that he didn't believe the two sides had spoken in a few days. Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley rejected an offer that included forward Rudy Gay and Hakim Warrick. However, the Grizzlies have more than $7 million in cap room available to use in a potential deal, which makes them more flexible in potential deals than most other teams in the league.

Talk between Portland and Phoenix has been dormant for days, with the Blazers unwilling to include rising star forward LaMarcus Aldridge and rookie guard Jerryd Bayless in any deals for Stoudemire.

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