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Sunday, May 23, 2010
Stoudemire answers defense critics

By Ramona Shelburne
ESPNLosAngeles.com

PHOENIX -- Amare Stoudemire has tried to tune it out. Radio, television, whatever version of print media he might read these days.

He knows what people are saying about him, there's no need to overstate it.

A large helping of the blame for Phoenix's defensive failures in the first two games of the Western Conference finals is being laid on his shoulders. He's been late on rotations, passive in the post against Lakers big men Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, and pulled down just nine rebounds in two games.

"It's OK, much is given much is expected," Stoudemire said Saturday afternoon following the Suns' practice.

"It's never easy rebounding against these guys when you've got three 7-footers. and myself, as a 6-foot-8 guy playing power forward. So it's never easy doing it. We've got to do a better job, a better job on the boards collectively. We'll figure it out."

Stoudemire was patient during an almost 20-minute session in which he fielded questions about his lackluster defensive play in this series, his impending free agency and how the Suns are going to change the tenor of what's been a one-sided conference finals thus far.

Patient, but still proud. So when Grant Hill playfully sprinkled scraps of paper over his head from the top of the staircase, then announced, "It's snowing in Phoenix!" Stoudemire smiled briefly, then quickly returned to the business at hand.

Just why does he think so much of the criticism of the Suns' defensive play is falling on his shoulders?

"I think the reason why is the simple fact that a lot of eyes are on me because it's my contract year," he said.

"And with myself playing the power forward/center position with three 7-footers and not getting as many rebounds as they are. ... [People] just try to compare positions.

"Sometimes they don't look at the total picture on how the game is being played, different strategies being put forth. A lot of time the blame is pointed toward me, but it's OK, I got broad shoulders. I can carry the load."

Defensive adjustments

Stoudemire didn't want to telegraph what the Suns planned to change at the defensive end in Game 3 to help slow the Lakers down, other than to say there will be changes.

"We're going back to what we know," he said. "The first two games we went to something totally different and it didn't quite help us so now we're going to go back to what we know and see if we can get some stops."

The Suns focused on denying entry passes to the Lakers' front line in the first two games of the series by playing in front of Gasol, Odom and Bynum. They also mixed in some zone defense and dared the Lakers to try and beat them with shots from outside.

"We tried to do some things," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "I thought we did a good job on Kobe [Bryant in Game 2], but it's almost like being at the dike. You stick your finger in and plug up one hole but water comes out of another. We've just got to find a way to have a whole lot of fingers, I guess."

Home sweet home

Steve Nash's bruised and battered right eye looked better than it had in 10 days, Channing Frye seemed confident again after a miserable shooting performance in Los Angeles. And the weather in Phoenix was warm and dry.

Will being back home be enough to turn the flow of this series?

"We feel good," Nash said. "We didn't feel so good coming home from L.A. but we've had a day or so to gather our energy back and feel positive and optimistic. I think we're a group that's excited to have the opportunity to come back and play better, get a win."

Frye, who is just 1-for-13 from behind the 3-point arc in the first two games after hitting 172 3-pointers during the regular season, seemed even more upbeat.

"Nothing, they're going to do the same thing they've been doing," Frye said, when asked what the Lakers might change in Game 3. "They're the No. 1 team in the world. Best team in the league, why should they change anything?

"But we're not really making adjustments as a desperate team. It's more like, 'Look man, we're at home, let's get out and let's run and let's play Suns basketball.' I don't think we've done so yet."

Ramona Shelburne is a writer and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.