Suns-Kings Preview

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.