The Nash extension question

This photo just about sums up the Suns' season. (AP/Paul Connors)

The question of Nash's extension is a real head-scratcher. (AP/Paul Connors)

Everything the Suns have done and talked about doing this offseason has revolved around building a core of youth around veterans Steve Nash and Grant Hill in the present and then going forward with a roster of youngsters thereafter.

After those aforementioned vets, only 28-year-old Jason Richardson is older than 26.

The Suns have resisted overtures on a 2010 cap-killing Tyson Chandler trade and have often talked about the importance of financial flexibility next offseason.

Which brings us to the question, why is extending a 35-year-old Steve Nash as important as the Suns are making it out to be?

While the Suns have told Amare they don’t want to talk extension until they see him officially return to the floor, a smart move considering the severity of his eye injury, a Nash extension has been priority numero uno since the moment the offseason started.

KTAR’s John Gambadoro tweeted that the Suns and Nash are “close” on such an extension, an inevitability that heated up around the time of last week’s signings of Hill and Channing Frye after Nash left a summer’s worth of hints of being amenable to playing in New York.

I’m really split on the Nash extension issue.

On one hand, there’s no NBA player I would rather watch play for the Phoenix Suns than Steve Nash. No, he doesn’t possess the physical gifts of a Kobe or a LeBron, but nobody orchestrates an offense quite like him, and it’s no wonder his teams have led the league in offense for seemingly the past decade.

It would be difficult for Suns fans everywhere to watch MVSteve finish off his career in another uniform.

Then there’s that whole thing that even at 35 he can still play, and nobody knows how to run the offense Gentry plans on playing better than No. 13.

He’s also the type of player that everybody in the league wants to play with. It’s no wonder why Hill and Frye took less money to end up in Phoenix.

Then there’s the flip side, which questions why a Suns team clearly looking toward the future would want to throw a ton of money at an aging player.

Unless something drastic happens, it appears as if the Nash Era will end without a title, so it would make sense to try to usher in a new era as soon as possible.

I’m ecstatic that the Suns have the look of a playoff team in 2009-10 when losing won’t help them anyway with their pick in the hands of OKC, but what about the future?

What does a 36-year-old and 37-year-old Nash do for the Suns in 2010-11 and 2011-12?

Even more importantly, Nash could command a three-year deal in the $10-13 million range. Of course, my original thought of getting Nash at a hometown discount of around $8 mil per was dashed when Kidd got a shade more, but paying Nash anything more than $10 mil per year might not be the wisest investment.

Any deal would essentially take the Suns out of the Summer of 2010, although that could change if they shed J-Rich or fail to re-sign Amare, and you’ve got to wonder if those resources would be better spent on someone a bit younger.

I understand that sounds callous to say about a player who means as much to this franchise as Nash does, and I feel like a horrible person for writing it, but you just can’t let fan sentiment get in the way of a major franchise decision.

My good buddy Adam Green over at KTAR makes the rather unpopular point that the Suns should not extend Nash for many of the reasons stated above. He also invokes the Eric Byrnes comparison, and that’s not something to be done lightly.

Mind you, I remember shooting hoops with Green days after the Byrnes extension, and even at that time he complained about how dumb the signing was (and he was in the minority at the time as well then, too).

Ironically enough, Nash figures to get something similar to Byrnes’ three-year, $30 million extension in the middle of his breakout 2007.

Now I don’t want to compare Nash to Byrnes because Nash has been one of the league’s best for a decade, and Byrnes was almost out of baseball before briefly reviving his career in the desert.

But the point is, Byrnes was a fan favorite whom the D-backs felt they could not afford not to extend in light of losing guys like Luis Gonzalez in recent years. Even though they had a prospect like Carlos Quentin ready to step in for Byrnes (and how’s he doing right now?), they opted for the fan-friendly move.

Steve Nash will never dip to the depths Byrnsie’s at right now, I just hope I’m not writing an article comparing Nash’s seemingly impending extension to Eric Byrnes’ around this time in two years.

My biggest issue with an extension is just the contradictory message the franchise is still sending.

On one hand they’re trying to build a great young core, which could be greatly aided by a Nash trade, and on the other hand they’re about to take themselves out of the Summer of 2010 by locking up a player heading toward the wrong side of 35.

I would be all for a Nash extension if they had made a push for Marion, looked into a Chandler deal a little more seriously and sent the message they’re in “win now” mode.

After all, what good will a mid-to-late-30s Nash do for a team set to rebuild?

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