In an interview with his old buddy Marc Stein of ESPN, our very own Steve Nash said that this is the first time in the last eight years that he is actually considering playing for another team. We've heard endless clamoring all over the country for the past few years, begging the Suns to trade Nash to a contender and begging Nash to wake up and smell the "play for cheap and win a ring" coffee.
Nash has always resisted that temptation. Be it his personal philosophy that chasing a ring isn't as easy as it sounds, or that going to a team that isn't a perfect fit is just an invitation to get traded in six months, Nash has always maintained that it's better to stay with what you know.
This time, for the first time in eight years, it's different. And to hear it from Nash, it's different because the Suns front office is sending different signals than ever before. So he's on the market again, for real.
"It's been eight years so I don't remember what it's like," Nash told Stein. "But I do know I feel excitement, anxiety, nerves just knowing that after eight years in Phoenix its possible that I could move on. That's something that I would say I didn't foresee. I always thought I would probably just stay until the end but now there's a chance I could go. So we'll see. I definitely could go back to Phoenix but there's this feeling that I could be moving on."
What's different about now versus 2009? Or even last season?
"But I don't feel like it's a home run anymore. One, I don't necessarily feel like they are trying to keep me and two, there's other opportunities that are exciting so I think I just have to be open-minded and take it all in and be present and be in the moment and that the same time forecast where I'll be the most successful and happiest."
Interesting the word choice here: Nash wants to be wanted.
Back in 2004, Mark Cuban did not want to pay Nash the money he felt he was worth. In fact, without even wavering, Cuban declined to match the Suns offer. Cuban instead spent the money on a defensive center and eventually won a championship through his philosophy of shifting parts around Dirk Nowitzki until they all fit.
Bryan Colangelo wanted Nash more than his current team did. That was true back in 2004, and its true again today. Toronto will provide the biggest contingent and biggest offer of money - amnestying their "version" of Nash in the process, Jose Calderon. Sure, the day might soon come where BC realizes that 2012 Nash is not the same coup as 2004 Nash, but today and tomorrow are not those days. Toronto is reportedly willing to offer more the 3 years Nash wants at somewhere around $12 million a year.
So Nash is ready to listen to offers. But apparently, it's not going to linger into the summer. Heck, it probably won't even last through the 4th of July.
"I think I'll make a decision, probably, in the first day or so I would imagine, because things happen fast and people want to get it out of the way and move on. Not only myself but the teams as well."
He know it's Deron Williams first, then Nash second. Yet he still thinks it will happen right away. The conversation with Stein did not even mention New Jersey. Only Toronto and Dallas. And Phoenix.
Who would he list as a favorite right now?
"Right now, I couldn't list a favorite. But I do know that, for the first time I realized that it might not be Phoenix. And I would have said even, in the middle of the season or last year that I would have, probably would have stayed in Phoenix forever.
Nash does have great memories of his time here in Phoenix. Great, great memories.
"If this is it in Phoenix, regardless of whether I come back or not, I'll look at the last eight years as a tremendous success."
He mentioned trips to the conference finals 3 or 4 years (probably counting the second-round loss to the Spurs in 2007 as the fourth), bad breaks, injuries, suspensions. But he also said he knew the team wasn't built like other championship contenders.
"You know, most teams that win a championship had a defensive center and we never had that.
"But we were exciting, won a lot of games and in many ways put an imprint on the league and the way the game is played now and I'm proud of my time there. And I have no regrets. Obviously I wish I could have made a couple more buckets or assists or stops and won a championship along the way or got to the Finals but it didn't happen and at the same time it was incredibly rewarding.
"Great teammates, great staff, great city, fans and I feel really proud that I was a Phoenix Suns for the last 8 years and two at the start of my career."
Sure sounds like a goodbye to me.
Yet, given the tone of the conversation, you have to think that Nash will give the Suns a final chance to convince him to stay. The Suns front office has established a pattern of low-balling their initial offers (the Suns initial "offer" to Nash is reportedly $10 mill/yr for 2 years), only to raise them later. They convinced Channing Frye to stay 2 seasons ago, and Grant Hill to stay twice in the past 3 years by eventually paying market value.
Will that happen here? Likely only in the form of money, and not years. With Kendall Marshall in the wings, I can't see the Suns committing to Nash for Marshall's entire rookie contract.
But I do see Sarver stepping up with more money per year, to match or exceed the (reasonable) competition. I can envision a 2-year, $25 million contract. Maybe even with a mutual option for year 3. But that's it.
In the end though, it's about rhetoric. The summer of 2009 was a no-brainer to Nash because the Suns were still fully committed to him. Even last season was a no-brainer. Nash was the "sun, moon and stars".
But he's not anymore. Rightly or wrongly, the Suns are no longer ready to commit their long-term future to an all-star who is slowing down as he approaches 40. Two years? Sure. Three or more? That's a different story.
In the strongest story written by a local reporter to date, after a hint-athon from Lon Babby and Lance Blanks, it appears that the Suns will not outbid other teams for Steve Nash's services in the upcoming season.
Nash's career with Phoenix Suns nears its end | www.azcentral.com | Paul Coro
Nash had a desire to remain -- and retire -- with the Suns but the interest in the 38-year-old point guard is stronger elsewhere as free-agency negotiations open at 9 p.m. Phoenix time Saturday night. Toronto, Brooklyn and Dallas are prepared to offer contracts with more money or years -- or both -- than Phoenix. Dallas' and Brooklyn's interest hinges on free-agent point guard Deron Williams' choice between the two franchises, but New York also is a player for Nash, who stays in Manhattan during the summer.
All of those teams have their warts though. Toronto will offer the most money and years, but they are not a winner. Sure they have some nice pieces, but Nash is no longer a building block to the future on a young team. Brooklyn and Dallas are fighting for Deron Williams first, then maybe Nash second. Brooklyn is not a winner either - much lesser parts than the Suns sans Williams - while Dallas would only offer a 1-year deal (per Coro) to save space for Dwight Howard the year after.
Back to the Suns. What happened to Nash being the sun, moon and stars?
"He (Nash) will have many factors to weigh," Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said (in the same article). "Candidly, we will have decisions to make. If we can get together and reach a common ground, that's fine. Regardless of the outcome, the one thing I'm confident about will be that it'll be handled with grace and dignity on both sides. We'll see if there is a basis for the relationship to continue that's best for him and also best for us."
That doesn't sound like sun, moon and stars to me. It sounds like a Suns team balancing the desire to keep Nash in town against the desire to start over with someone younger than 38 years old. A tough task, no doubt. It happened to Green Bay and Brett Favre, to San Fransisco with Joe Montana, to Utah with Karl Malone, and so on and so on.
But (in true BSotS spirit) while the start of free agency looks bleak, don't count out the Suns and Nash coming back together in the end. As Coro puts it so well in the same piece:
If the Suns strike out on a big-name free agent (Eric Gordon is being mentioned again) and Nash doesn't get the combination of loyalty, winning and money he's looking for elsewhere, maybe Robert Sarver will open the pocketbook on a lucrative shorter-term deal after all.
But that's the only way Nash comes back. Later in July. On a compromise deal for less than 3 years. Otherwise, the Nash era in Phoenix is over.
Hit the jump for the guy the Suns likely DO want to sign.
Lance Blanks called in to many radio shows today, including the xtra910. I listened to that one live, and was surprised at how candid Blanks was that the Suns' near future may very well be tougher than anything we've seen lately.
However, if the Suns' big push actually works out, the road to contention might not be so long after all. Another section of the same article from Coro.
The Suns have $23 million in salary-cap space but are trying to retain space for other pursuits, which appears to include a large offer to restricted free agent Eric Gordon. New Orleans traded Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza this week to create more salary-cap space, and new owner Tom Benson is expected to want to match an offer for the shooting guard. Gordon could command at least $12 million annually.
The Suns have a big chance here. Gordon made comments this offseason that he's looking for his next place to be a long-term home. Gordon also perfectly fits the mold of shooting guard that the Suns desperately need - he can create his own shot on the drive or the pull-up, and he can pass and rebound and defend. Basically, he's the grown up version of Dion Waiters.
Gordon's big problem is health. He has missed half the games in the last 2 years, and a third of his NBA games overall. But if the Suns think their renowned training staff can keep Gordon healthy, maybe he's worth a contract bigger than the rebuilding Hornets are willing to pay?
The Hornets just the other night drafted Austin Rivers at #10 - a shooting guard who likes the ball in his hands but isn't a point guard at all. He is a shooting guard who can pass and get his own shot any time - just like Eric Gordon but a tiny bit taller and a lot skinnier.
Still, he's a top-10 pick. And you don't usually sit a top-10 pick on the bench for 4 years behind a near-max player.
The Phoenix Suns with Gordon in the backcourt alongside Kendall Marshall would look really good.