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Nash turns 36, has Suns on a 5-game winning streak

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PHOENIX (AP)

The Phoenix Suns are surging amid speculation Amare Stoudemire could be traded in the next two weeks.

Steve Nash turned 36 on Sunday with the Suns on a season-high, five-game winning streak that includes their first 4-0 road trip since December 2006.

Nash said it would be a shame to see Stoudemire traded away, with the team playing as well as it is.

``I think everyone feels good about our team and wants it to stay the same,'' he said. ``It's not really in our hands. A lot of it has to do with contracts and extensions and stuff and those areas are fairly personal matters. We've just got to worry about the things we can control and keep building as a team.''

For the second year in a row, it appears the Suns are listening to offers for Stoudemire. The All-Star forward can opt out of his contract after this season, and the Suns don't want to see him walk away with them receiving nothing in return.

``I'm just staying away from the trade talk now,'' Stoudemire said as he walked to his car following Sunday's practice. ``I said pretty much what I said about the whole situation and I'll just let it play out.''

On the team's recent road trip, Stoudemire said he could decide not to opt out of the final year of his contract, whether he's in Phoenix or not, and take the $17 million he is schedule to receive.

Stoudemire is averaging 25.6 points and 10 rebounds during the Suns' winning streak, which has coincided with the insertion of 7-foot Robin Lopez into the starting lineup.

``Now guys can't totally focus on me out there,'' Stoudemire said. ``They've got to worry about him as well because he's a force to be reckoned with definitely on the boards.''

Coach Alvin Gentry put Lopez in the lineup 11 games ago in place of Channing Frye to toughen up the Suns' soft interior.

``I just thought we needed a change,'' Gentry said. ``We were struggling a little bit defensively and I thought he would give us a presence defensively in there. His offense has been a real pleasant surprise, to be honest with you.''

Lopez, whose twin brother Brook plays for the New Jersey Nets, has mostly sat through his first two seasons and was out for a month after breaking a bone in his left foot during a training-camp scrimmage.

``Coming back I didn't really know where I was going to be,'' he said. ``I felt confident where I was going to be on the defensive end but in training camp I played well on the offensive end. I was glad to see I was able to continue. I was wondering if I was going to have to work back to that level but I was able to fit right in.''

Lopez has averaged 12.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots since he became a starter. He's also altered many more shots.

``I try to affect the game with my length,'' he said. ``You're not always going to be able to block the shot. You get a lot of fouls that way. The past two games notwithstanding, I've found I've been able to stay out of foul trouble that way.''

Nash, meanwhile, is having a season that belies his age and then some, averaging 18.4 pounds and 11.1 assists. He's shooting 52 percent from the field, 44 percent from 3-point range and 94 percent from the foul line. Nash has had 10 or more assists in each of the team's last five wins.

``I don't know how old or how young I feel,'' he said, ``but I feel really good and I'm enjoying my teammates.''

Gentry believes Nash is playing as well as in any of his five seasons with the Suns, just maybe not as fast.

Although Phoenix remains the highest-scoring team in the NBA, it's not the ``seven seconds or less'' blur of coach Mike D'Antoni's years.

After a 14-3 start to the season, Phoenix went 12-18 to fall to 26-21 after an overtime home loss to Charlotte on Jan. 26. But the Suns beat Dallas at home, then followed with victories at Houston, New Orleans, Denver and Sacramento.

``You've got to understand, 10 days ago we were out of the playoffs,'' Gentry said. ``Now we're in fifth and a game and a half out of fourth place. ... But we're also 3 1/2 games from being out of the playoffs. I think it's going to be that way the next 29-30 games. Every week I think somebody will jockey for position and something will change.''

Tagged: Pelicans, Nuggets, Rockets, Suns, Steve Nash, Hornets, Robin Lopez

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