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 | 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:

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…

Get used to this face - the new face of the Suns

Lost in the angst over the Suns' perceived inability to do get more out of the draft than they were supposed to, the choice of Kendall Marshall at #13 overall by the Phoenix Suns became somewhat of an afterthought.

Sure, we like Kendall. But we wanted MORE than just Kendall Marshall out of that draft.

As the Suns' new backup point guard flies across the country this morning for a noon press conference love fest, let me be the first to apologize to Kendall Marshall for slighting him last night. Suns fans will love, Love, L.O.V.E. this kid more than any young player that the Suns have drafted in the last 9 years. He will do everything he can to make his team successful, always squeezing the last bit of talent from himself and his players until the sponge is dry.

I have been talking about the Suns needing a new "alpha dog" in their midst of supporting players. Marshall is definitely an alpha dog, but not the kind of showboating grandstanding player so prevalent in the NBA these days. But alpha is as alpha does.

See what Marshall says about himself.

"If I were to sell myself...," he told draftexpress.com last month, "Well, I'd ask I my teammates to do it. I feel like if you want to know about a player you should ask who he plays with or who he plays against and they'll give you an honest evaluation. Now I can sit here and say I do a great job of running a team, getting my teammates involved, and ultimately winning -- those are the things I take pride in and I think my teammates would be able to vouch for that."

Suns fans will love his passing, his attitude and his devotion to the game of basketball.

They won't be lamenting his set-shot offense. Rather they will predict future jump-shooting success, much like they predicted success for every backup PG to come to the Suns in the last 10 years. They won't be lamenting his defensive deficiencies. Rather, they'll be clamoring for the front office to improve the defense around him so he won't look so bad, much like fans have been defending Steve Nash's defense for years.

"I've never had a better passer than Kendall Marshall," said UNC coach Roy Williams, who was at the draft. "Phoenix likes to play fast, and if they want to keep playing that pace, they picked the right guy."

Hit the link for tons more, including really insightful and awesome quotes from Marshall himself.

Here is some exclusive insight from Kris Habbas of www.nbadraftinsider.com and arizona.sbnation.com:

He has great size (Andre Miller, Jason Kidd) that he uses to bounce defenders off of him on offense. His vision is as good if not better than any point guard in eight years. He can be a good shooter in time, the mechanics are not bad and in time he can be a good spot-up shooter.

Defensively he is an instinctual player. He is not a great athlete or a Rajon Rondo type defender, that is not his game. He is smart though and if you watch him he has quick hands that if a ball-handler is sloppy or puts the ball in-front of him he will take it.

The off-court is what impresses me the most. He is humble, well spoken, and the smartest basketball player I have spoken to in the four years I have covered college/NBA. He is calm and collected, we spoken, and a student of the game. Reminds me of Derek Fisher that sense.

What I love most about Marshall is his self-awareness. He knows what he has to improve, and he's going to work hard to do it. This interview with www.draftexpress.com last month is telling.

On his shooting: "I definitely want to become a consistent, knockdown shooter. The last thing I want to be is a liability for any team I'm playing for. I feel like I'm blessed with a gift of getting my teammates involved, but that's not going to matter if guys are defending 10 or 15 feet off of me."

On his defense: "And also, working on my body and becoming more flexible -- I think that will help me become quicker on defense. You know, being able to keep guys like Tywon [Lawson], Derrick Rose, and Russell Westbrook, these highly explosive guards -- I'm not trying to shut them down, but I want to be able to contain them and do a good job staying in front of them."

On his philosophy: "One thing I think I do a great job of is I stay in my lane. Whatever I'm able to do, you're going to see it, but I'm not going to try anything crazy that I can't do. I feel like that's one area if I just do what I'm supposed to do, as opposed to going out here and just showing people I can score 25 if I wanted to."

More from the draftexpress.com interview...

JT: You talked about some of the great schools in the ACC. I wanted to ask you what it's like holding the ACC single season assists record given you played in the same conference as Bobby Hurley, Chris Paul, Ty Lawson, and so many other great point guards.

Kendall Marshall: It's definitely an accomplishment I'm proud of, but those names you mentioned, none of those players were satisfied with that. So at the same time, it's humbling to me that I so have so much more to accomplish. I don't want to just be known for what I did one year in college, but for what I'm able to do over my whole career."

JT: What would you say to your doubters who look at you and say "he's kind of a unique player, he doesn't really resemble anyone, I'm not sure if he'll be able to succeed"?

Kendall Marshall: You know, people don't like different, people don't like change, that's just the way our world works. I think there have been plenty of players who have fought against those questions and done well. Players like Evan Turner, who some didn't think would do well coming out of college but has done a great job. Players like Ricky Rubio coming over to the NBA and being able to be successful, just to name two. Players from the old days like Mark Price who weren't gifted with the athletic abilities but still found a way to get it done. But I feel like I can fit right in -- not with those crop of players, I may not be as good as them right now, but still being able to be effective.

JT: Is there any coach or team in the NBA you think you'd be a real good fit with? Or a certain style you prefer to play?

Kendall Marshall: It's tough to say. I feel like I can adjust to any situation. It's probably be a little bit harder for me if coach gave me the ball and told me he'd like me to average 20 a game, but other than that I think I'll be okay.

Scouting nuggets from www.draftexpress.com:

Marshall's 10.7 assists per 40 minutes game adjusted this season rank the highest of any player in the history of our database (which goes back to 2001/2002). He's also #1 all-time in Pure Point Ratio by a large margin, while his 3.51 Assist-Turnover Ratio ranks 3rd all-time.

When looking at Marshall's game from an NBA perspective, his passing ability is clearly his greatest selling point, and it's hard to overstate how good of a passer he is and how great a feel he has for managing a game.

In terms of point guard style, Marshall is a prototypical pass-first point guard taken to the extreme, as evidenced by his just 6.2 field-goal attempts per game in 32.9 minutes. He possesses an uncanny, second nature feel for the game, always instinctively playing with his head up and quickly moving the ball to the highest percentage scoring opportunity. Managing the game clearly comes very easy for him both in the half court and transition, as he looks as natural as any player in the country finding teammates for easy baskets.

His biggest liability is his defense.

The defensive end, however, is perhaps the most concerning aspect of Marshall's game projecting to the next level, as his lack of quickness on this end of the floor is concerning in the dribble-drive centric NBA, and already is a problem against high level competition in college. While Marshall brings a good effort and fundamental level to the table at the college level, he is prone to being blown by more athletic competition due to his below average lateral quickness, and often has to give up notable space on the perimeter to compensate.

His excellent size allows him to offset his other limitations somewhat, notably in the pick-and-roll game at times, but overall his ability to defend point guards consistently is a question mark projecting to the NBA, and he will really need to put in work to maximize his effectiveness on this end of the floor.

Marshall, the Cousy Award winner last season, has almost supernatural court vision, and Bilas said the 6-4, 198-pound guard makes up for his lack of speed offensively by seeing long-distance passes on the break.

"Where his speed really comes from in transition is his ability to pass ahead," Bilas said. "The only question mark you have is about his footspeed (on defense). Can he stay in front of the elite guards? But as a passer and a leader, he's a great player."

ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy added, ""People are going to want to play with him. A guy who's that unselfish is going to drive the team."

Marshall always looking for an assist | Before they were NBA prospects | Dave Telep

Kendall Marshall made the Hoop Summit team as a senior. In addition to Marshall's playing behind Brandon Knight, there was another guard who impeded his playing time: Kyrie Irving. Marshall was put on the team because he was good enough, a great passer and a pied piper. Once Marshall was on a team, let him recruit the other players for the squad. Anyone sitting on the fence about playing would be swayed with Marshall at the helm. He's always been a unifying team guy.

Late in a close game, the coach turned to Marshall and was about to put him in. Marshall, who knew the team better than the coach because he's a junkie and basically a groupie who is a great player, would have nothing of it. "Coach, Kyrie's tired, but he's our best player. Leave him in -- he'll be OK," he said. With 44 seconds remaining, Irving's hoop put USA up for good. In an era of egos, Marshall's is tame, and he's a winner.

More links on Marshall:

UNC's Kendall Marshall Steal of 2012 NBA Draft

NBA DRAFT: Six from Triangle go in 1st round, led by UNC's Barnes to the Warriors at No. 7 : News-Record.com : Greensboro & the Triad's most trusted source for local news and analysis

Looking back on Marshall, Barnes - North Carolina Basketball Blog - ESPN

DraftExpress NBA Draft Prospect Profile: Kendall Marshall, Stats, Comparisons, and Outlook

2012 NBA Draft - Yahoo! Sports - Kendall Marshall analysis

2012 NBA Draft Grades: Phoenix Suns Select Kendall Marshall : Sports Videos

Draft grades: Warriors, Thunder get A's; Cavaliers in cellar – USATODAY.com

Marshall Interview After Draft

Brass Talks About Draft

PHOENIX — During the opening statements of both his press briefings tonight, Suns GM Lance Blanks made it a point to urge the assembled media not to read into the Suns’ selection of the best...

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