Phoenix uprising

FRANK ZICARELLISUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:25 AM ET

The sun is setting on the Phoenix Suns, a team that finds itself at the cross-roads heading into a three-game Eastern trip, which begins tonight in Motown.

With the NBA's Feb. 19 trade deadline fast approaching, no team is generating more speculation than the Suns.

Depending on the time of day, every player except Steve Nash, dubbed an "untouchable'' by some, is available.

Nash turned 35 years old yesterday and is growing tired at the Suns' inability to establish any kind of identity, rhythm and chemistry.

Nash is a realist and he knows, more than anyone, that changes are coming if the Suns aren't able to get their act together.

When they woke up yesterday, the Suns were looking up in the Western Conference standings to the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot.

In hindsight, the Suns have tried to do too much in too short a period of time with inexperienced executives calling the shots.

The team went from playing a full-court style into a half-court team following last season's mid-season acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal.

Under first-year head coach Terry Porter, the Suns stressed defence, but then went out and traded for Jason Richardson, whose game is best suited for the way Phoenix used to play.

The Suns finished January with a losing record, 7-8, the first losing month during Nash's second go-round in the desert.

The team has gone 2-3 in its past five games, yielding an average of 120 points in each loss.

Players have met behind closed doors and emerged with few answers for the many questions that plague the Suns.

With so much soul-searching and speculation engulfing the Suns, it wouldn't surprise anyone if Phoenix completely breaks up its team.

With the league's all-star weekend to unfold in Phoenix next week, the NBA prefers its teams not to upstage the mid-season showcase by drawing attention to trades or potential deals.

At this rate, the Suns may have no choice but to pull off a major trade during all-star festivities when every team general manager and high-ranking official attends the corporate schmooz-fest.

Amare Stoudemire's name is atop the list of most likely to be traded.

When Stoudemire is motivated and playing within a team concept, he's virtually unstoppable given his athleticism and explosiveness.

The problem with Stoudemire is he thinks he's better than he is and takes too many nights off.

He aired some concerns recently when Stoudemire felt Shaq's presence in the post clogs the paint too much and thus renders Stoudemire ineffective.

"It's kind of good that a lot of teams want me right now," Stoudemire told the Arizona Republic.

"That's positive. Obviously, probably a little bit of financial decision going on. Probably trying to clear things up from their standpoint. A lot of times, when something like this happens, it's more of a business move than anything else.

"I know for sure wherever I go we're going to definitely be playoff contenders. I bring a lot to the table."

Yahoo! Sports, citing sources, reports that any team eyeing Stoudemire would have to fork over an expiring contract, a young front-court stud and draft picks.

Toronto, naturally, has been mentioned given GM Bryan Colangelo's history with Stoudemire.

No team appears more poised for a major shakeup than the Suns, followed closely by the Raptors.

This is the time of the season when dots begin to get connected, when rumours intensify and names get bandied about.

It's the nature of the basketball beast when teams lose and when expectations fall woefully short.

SHEED'S NOT SHY

You got to love Rasheed Wallace, whose cut the cheque remark a few years back symbolized the me-first culture of today's NBA player.

Detroit has disappointed many this year and Wallace's name, not surprisingly, gets mentioned in rumoured trade talk because he has an expiring contract this summer.

"If I get traded, I get traded," Wallace said. "If it happens, can't cry over spilled milk.

"I just know wherever I go, wherever I get traded to, you gotta go and ball."


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