Amaré Stoudemire came face to face with a bouncing, snarling, 10-foot tall baby T-Rex Tuesday to help promote this weekend’s visit of “Walking With Dinosaurs” at US Airways Center.
Of course, he is used to sharing the stage with folks from another era. Take Stoudemire, who turns 26 in November, out of the equation, and the rest of the Suns’ projected starting lineup (Raja Bell, Grant Hill, Steve Nash and Shaquille O’Neal) averages 34 years of age.
That’s not exactly on the verge of extinction — but downright Jurassic by NBA standards.
But Stoudemire feels the Suns’ core still has plenty of fossil fuel left in the tank, and with the injection of energy expected from newcomers Matt Barnes, Goran Dragic and Robin Lopez, the new direction provided by coach Terry Porter will be just what the team needs to reload.
“The new guys? Fantasico,” said Stoudemire, kissing his fingertips, European style. “The players we brought in really complement the players we have, and they work extremely hard. We have active, fearless guys who are so focused on basketball.
“For a team that’s looking to achieve greater things, this was a great group of additions. We have a lot of talent, and Terry Porter’s method has us all uplifted and ready to move forward.”
And while Stoudemire said he had no problems with outgoing coach Mike D’Antoni and wished him well in New York, he was often outspoken in word — if not deed — that the Suns needed to focus more on the defensive end and hone those skills in practice. He feels the addition of Porter is a big step in that direction.
“His focus and determination on how to win a title and what it takes to get there … it’s been great for myself and the rest of the team to see,” he said. “We won a lot of games and we’ve been one of the best offensive teams for a few years, but it hasn’t gotten us over the top. It hasn’t gotten us where we want to go, and (a new philosophy) can get us there. “I’m ready for intense practices. I’m prepared to do whatever is necessary. I want to be the guy the other teams have to fear as a defender.”
Stoudemire said he has no second thoughts about his decision not to play with Team USA this summer, saying it was important for him to rest after the long season and get his knees back to 100 percent moving forward.
Two years ago, he was a first-team All-NBA center. Last year, he was sixth in the Most Valuable Player voting — and never really felt 100 percent in either case. Now?
“I’m at 2 percent body fat and 245 pounds and my (knees) … I feel like I can do anything I want on the court again,” he said. “That’s a great feeling, and if I needed to make the decision for the long-term goal of having a long career, the Olympics will hopefully be there down the road.”
Stoudemire still got in his share of traveling. There was a vacation to London and then a trip to West Africa, where his foundation is part of a project to refurbish water wells in Sierra Leone.
“There are so many kids there … all they want to do is have the opportunity to go to school, but it’s not there for all of them,” he said. “We have to make sure that they have a chance to grow their minds.”