The fit of the Phoenix Suns and point guard Kendall Marshall makes a lot of sense for both parties. Marshall averaged 9.7 assists per game in North Carolina’s up-tempo system, and his skill-set...

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Apr. 25, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard (13) Steve Nash is greeted by the coaching staff on the bench  after walking off off the court for the final time of the season in the second half against the San Antonio Spurs at the US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

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 | | 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:

The Suns' negotiations to retain Grant Hill (twice) and Channing Frye in recent years started with low initial offers before Managing Partner Robert Sarver stepped in late with above-market offers.

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.

PHOENIX — Kendall Marshall can’t duck from the truth. He’s immediately given the label of the Phoenix Suns’ point guard of the future. He’s supposedly the perfect fit...

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Nash is keeping his options wide open.  This wide open.

We all know that Nash is reaching an advanced age, but is he about to become a Dinosaur? These recent tweets by Marc Stein suggest that the Toronto Raptors are going to be VERY aggressive in pursuing Steve Nash at the beginning of the upcoming free agency period.

Marc Stein ‏@ESPNSteinLine

Shifting to free agency: Hearing Raptors want to park no less than a five-deep contingent in Manhattan to woo Steve Nash as soon as allowed

Marc Stein ‏@ESPNSteinLine

Raps president of basketball ops Bryan Colangelo wooed Nash same way in summer of 2004 ... and quickly convinced Nash to swap DAL for PHX

Considering that the recent actions of the Suns front office have been described as being less than assertive by their critics, have the Raptors possibly usurped the Suns as the favorite to secure Nash's services for the upcoming season? They definitely appear to be materializing as the primary competition. Will the Raptors sense of urgency win out over the Suns torpidity, or are the Suns a slumbering giant waiting for the free agency period to flex their organizational muscle?

Adam Francis from Raptors HQ already answered this question in our recent division preview:

Are the Raptors interested in Steve Nash, and if so, do they consider themselves a serious competitor to land him?

Are the Raptors interested in Nash? Without question and yes, I think they consider themselves a serious contender. Sure, there's talk of him wanting to play for a contender, but most contending and pseudo-contending clubs already have elite point guards. The only other teams that have had playoff success with PG needs are ones like Indiana, and it's hard to fathom Nash choosing markets like that over Toronto. New York? Don't see it either. Nash would need to take less money to play there, and it's doubtful the fit would be that great with Melo. Oh, and the team fired Nash's guy, D'Antoni.

Take Steve Nash off the Suns and put him on a Raptors squad with Bargnani, DeRozan, Davis, Johnson, Ross, and Valanciunas (among others) and that team is better than the Suns were last year. Given the fact that they can add another solid piece in free agency (thanks to Toronto's auspicious cap situation) and I could easily see them contending for a top 4 spot in the East. The Raptors can pay Nash, and people all over Canada (regardless of which side of the country he's from) love Steve.

The free agency period (July Moratorium) starts in less than 36 hours. There isn’t a whole lot of time to mull over the draft and dissect the action (or lack thereof) the Suns took. Pandemonium is right around the corner.

Susurruses around the league suggest that the reality of Nash leaving may be more serious now than at any time since his return, but most of this has just been shadows in dark corners type of speculation. Nothing concrete to suggest that Nash isn't approaching free agency open to weighing his options.

What do you think? Are the Raptors a legitimate threat? Is there a lurker that will surface? Are you ready to move on without Steve? This could be your last chance to give your thoughts on whether you want Nash back or not, so lay it all out on the floor. Consider this a free agency free for all…

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