Amare Stoudemire has found sanctuary on the road, where he can avoid some of the constant talk about him possibly being traded. Perhaps the rumors will die down altogether if the big man can help the Phoenix Suns continue their surge.
Getting outstanding play from Stoudemire, the Suns look to sweep a four-game trip when they face the lowly Sacramento Kings on Friday night.
Stoudemire can opt out of the final year of his contract after this season, fueling talk that Phoenix (30-21) may try to deal the five-time All-Star. Stoudemire, though, has played a significant role in helping the Suns win four straight after losing seven of nine.
Stoudemire had 20 points and 17 rebounds as Phoenix beat Denver 109-97 on Wednesday night. Averaging 27.0 points and 13.3 rebounds over his last three games, Stoudemire has helped put Phoenix in position to win four in a row on the road for the first time since December 2007.
"It's definitely great to be on the road and get away from all the trade talk for a while," he said.
Coach Alvin Gentry had a talk with Stoudemire about the speculation.
"I told him he's got to try to put it behind him and move on because whatever happens is going to happen," Gentry said. "It always happens this time of year, there's someone that's always the talk - it just happens to be him this year."
Gentry and the Suns have an excellent opportunity to extend their streak. They are 2-0 against the Kings this season and have won 14 of the last 16 meetings.
Sacramento (16-32) comes in struggling, having dropped 15 of 17. The Kings lost 115-113 to San Antonio on Wednesday night, their seventh defeat in 10 games at Arco Arena after they won 10 of the first 13 there.
"I don't know what it is," rookie guard Tyreke Evans said. "We go out and play hard but at the end of the game we just don't find a way to pull it out. Our execution is terrible."
Evans has averaged 24.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists in two games against the Suns. He had 32 points while adding eight assists and seven rebounds versus the Spurs.
With the Kings down by five Wednesday, Evans made a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"That's our theme," Sacramento center Spencer Hawes said. "We let ourselves get down, we're too far out of it, and then we make a late comeback. In the end we come up short."
The Kings, though, had a strong shooting night, making 52.3 percent (45 for 86) from the field even though second-leading scorer Jason Thompson didn't play. Thompson, averaging 13.1 points, missed the game because of a family funeral and isn't expected back until Sunday at Toronto.
Rookie Omri Casspi will likely start in place of Thompson again. He had a career-high 24 points and grabbed seven rebounds in Sacramento's 113-109 loss to Phoenix on Jan. 5, the teams' last meeting.
Suns All-Star guard Steve Nash had 30 points in that contest and is averaging 30.5 in his last four games against the Kings, shooting 57.1 percent (12 for 21) from 3-point range and making all 24 of his attempts from the free-throw line.